The Consequences of U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Generic Drugs

Few places exists where individual residents are on equal footing with the largest and most influential business interests–like the medical lobby or pharmaceutical companies. Competing with the financial and political power of these groups is next to impossible on a large scale. However, the Illinois medical malpractice lawyers at our firm believe strongly that the courtroom is different. In the courtroom, all sides are equal. It is the evidence and the argument that is suppose to dictate the actions in the justice system, not the amount of money, power, or prestige that a party has.

It is important to preserve that crucial role played by the civil justice system. Yet, some legal rulings and precedents are incredibly destructive of the principle of fairness in the justice system. These decisions must be fought against so that all community members have the right to seek accountability when they are harmed by the misconduct of others–including big companies.

Generic Drug Immunity
One troublesome new case from the U.S. Supreme Court is raising eyebrows for the way it cuts out basic fairness for one hurt by generic drugs. One woman recently explained how she was first brought to the hospital to receive treatment for abnormal bleeding. While there the generic form of the drug Phenergan was improperly given to the woman because of an inadequate warning label on the bottle. When all was said and done, as a result of the complications, the woman’s hand and forearm were amputated.

Eventually she filed suit to hold the drugmaker accountable for the inadequate labeling which left her injured. However, the suit was dismissed because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that patients had no legal recourse in these circumstance when the drug in question was a generic drug. If the drug had been the name brand then everything would have been different.

This rule was outlined in the case of Pliva v. Mensing. In Pilva a woman sued the manufacturer of metoclopramide (the generic drug equivalent of Reglan) after developing tardive dyskinesea. It is a neurological movement disorder caused by an adverse reaction to the drug. The court ruled that the generic drug company could not be held accountable for the consequences of their actions in the case. The decision, issued a year ago, has implications in all similar suits, barring those hurt by generic drugs from holding the companies accountable. The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at our firm understand the inherent injustice of this rule as well as the dangers it poses to patients when legal incentives are not present to keep mistakes in check.

The injustice and illogic of the situation is obvious. For example in another case, Wyeth v. Levine, a woman essentially in the exact same situation as the patient who had her arm and forearm amputated received a multi-million dollar judgment against the company for its misconduct. The only difference was that she was given the name-brand drug.

All medical malpractice attorneys, product liability lawyers, and others focused on patient safety need to raise awareness of this injustice and the need to rectify the situation via legislation.

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