Tuesday, August 11, 2015

California Actos case embraces 2.0 relative risk standard

Where there is no identifiable marker for causal relationship between a drug and a harm circumstantial proof - the differential etiology, rule out method is usually relied upon.  Here an industry lawyer celebrates a California case which goes against the flow, reversing a large verdict against Takeda in favor of a patient who used its anti-diabetes drug Actos.  - GWC
California Actos case: 2.0 Relative Risk Proof Demanded
by Nathan Schactman

A recent decision of the California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Three, continues the dubious state and federal practice of deciding important issues under cover of unpublished opinions. Cooper v. Takeda Pharms. America, Inc., No. B250163, 2015 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 4965 (Calif. App., 2nd Dist., Div. 3; July 16, 2015). In Cooper, plaintiff claimed that her late husband's bladder cancer was caused by defendant's anti-diabetic medication, Actos (pioglitazone). The defendant moved to strike the expert witness testimony in support of specific causation. The trial judge expressed serious concerns about the admissibility of plaintiff's expert witnesses on specific causation, but permitted the trial to go forward. After a jury returned its verdict in favor of plaintiff, the trial court entered judgment for the defendants, on grounds that the plaintiff lacked admissible expert witness testimony.

Although a recent, large, well-conducted study[1] failed to find any meaningful association between pioglitazone and bladder cancer, there were, at the time of trial, several studies that suggested an association. Plaintiff's expert witnesses, epidemiologist Dr. Alfred Neugut and bladder oncologist Dr. Norm Smith interpreted the evidence to claim a causal association, but both conceded that there were no biomarkers that allowed them to attribute Cooper's cancer to pioglitazone. The plaintiff also properly conceded that identifying a cause of the bladder cancer was irrelevant to treating the disease. Cooper, 2015 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 4965, at *13. Specific causation was thus determined by the so-called process of differential etiology, with the ex ante existence of risk substituting for cause, and using risk exposure in the differential analysis.

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