Takeda and Eli Lilly have been ordered by a US court to pay a jaw-dropping $9 billion in damages over claims that cancer risks associated with the diabetes drug Actos were covered up.

The case involves Terrence Allen, a former user of Actos (pioglitazone) who blamed the drug for his bladder cancer and a jury in Louisiana has found in his favour. It has awarded $6 billion in punitive damages from Takeda and $3 billion from co-defendant Lilly, plus just under $1.5 million in compensation.

Kenneth Greisman, general counsel at Takeda's US unit, said the firm, "respectfully disagrees with the verdict and we intend to vigorously challenge this outcome through all available legal means, including possible post-trial motions and an appeal". He added that "we have empathy for the Allens, but we believe the evidence did not support a finding that Actos caused his bladder cancer [and] we also believe we demonstrated that Takeda acted responsibly". Lilly has yet to respond.

The company noted that while this is the first federal case to be tried and the first in the consolidated Actos multidistrict litigation, judgments were entered in Takeda's favour in all three previous trials concerning the drug.  Mr Greisman concluded by saying that "patient safety is a critical priority for Takeda" and "we are confident in the therapeutic benefits of Actos and its importance as a treatment for type 2 diabetes".

The plaintiffs' lawyer Mark Lanier was reported by Reuters as saying that award was met with "stunned silence" in the courtroom and acknowledged that the $9 billion figure may not stand. "Nobody has gone out and bought a new home," he told the news agency.