Cancer risk prompts Australia/NZ legal action over diabetes drug

22 May 2013
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, in conjunction with US firm Meyers & Flowers, have lodged a claim in the US on behalf of an Australian citizen as part of a US group action against Takeda and Eli Lilly, the drug’s co-manufacturers and distributors.

Studies have found a drug used to treat sufferers of Type 2 diabetes - Actos™ - contains an active ingredient linked to bladder cancer, affecting diabetes sufferers across Australia and New Zealand.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, in conjunction with US firm Meyers & Flowers, have lodged a claim in the US on behalf of an Australian citizen as part of a US group action against Takeda and Eli Lilly, the drug's co-manufacturers and distributors.

The active ingredient in Actos™ is Pioglitazone. Maurice Blackburn Principal Damian Scattini said Pioglitazone is currently the subject of a 10-year study, with the interim findings showing that patients taking this ingredient for more than 12 months had a 40 per increased risk of bladder cancer.

"The risks of Actos™ were well known in the US and in Europe; however Australians - both consumers and prescribing doctors - largely remained unaware of the potential side effects of the drug," Mr Scattini said.

"The makers of this drug have known for some time about an increased risk of bladder cancer, but in spite of this they have still failed to provide appropriate warnings to people and doctors in Australia and New Zealand about prolonged use in patients with type 2 diabetes.

"Given the drug's availability here and in New Zealand, we believe there could potentially be many more people who may have developed bladder cancer whilst taking Actos™, not realising the risks associated with this," he said.

Pete Flowers of Meyers & Flowers, who is currently running a number of claims against Takeda and Eli Lilly, said it was alleged the manufacturers were aware of at least two studies linking Actos™ to bladder cancer prior to the drug being registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but deliberately concealed this to ensure Actos™ was registered.

"The risks for patients using Actos™ long term are serious, and in the US there are already up to 3000 individual legal claims in relation to Actos™ underway.

"If people wish to register in the group action they need to register by June 7 2013 here or by calling 1800 247 771," he said.

Maurice Blackburn is acting for Brisbane man Peter Marshall, a 69 year-old retiree who developed bladder cancer after taking Actos™ for almost two years.

Peter Marshall was first prescribed Actos™ in late 2009 and in November 2011 was diagnosed with bladder cancer, despite having no family history or medical condition that predisposed him to the disease.

He has now had treatment and is in remission, but has been told that there is a strong chance the cancer will return and must have checks regularly.

"It was borderline on whether I should even take Actos™, but I opted to because I wanted to prevent problems with diabetes later on," Mr Marshall said.

"I don't have a history of any sort of cancer in my family, so to be diagnosed with bladder cancer out of nowhere was a total shock.

"My cancer diagnosis had a major impact on my life and still does despite being in remission, particularly the worry that the disease can return.

"I think it's important that people taking Actos™ are aware of the risks, I wouldn't want anyone else to have to go through what I have," he said.

As with any decision regarding prescribed medications, it is important that people seek the advice of their doctor before making a decision to cease treatment.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calculated that if patients took the drug for longer than 12 months it was associated with 27.5 excess cases of bladder cancer per 100,000 persons, compared with those who never used the drug.

Both the FDA and the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia have issued safety warnings to consumers and health practitioners about the active ingredient in Actos™ in recent years. Actos™ has been withdrawn from sale in France, Germany and elsewhere.

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