Lawsuits and Defective Drugs

Lawsuits and Defective Drugs

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision about liability for generic prescription drugs shines a spotlight on the issue of injuries, illnesses and fatalities caused by prescription drugs in general. On June 25, 2013, the court decided 5-4 that manufacturers of low-cost versions of brand-name prescription medications should not be liable for damages caused by the drug.

Limits on Liability for Generic Drug Manufacturers

This decision severely limits the ability of patients to sue generic drug manufacturers for damages caused by a medication. Generic drug makers had already received a favorable decision in 2011 that shielded them from liability in cases based on allegations of improper labelling. The most recent decision closes the door to lawsuits claiming defective design and formulation. This decision was based on the FDA’s approval of the drug before its initial release by a brand-name manufacturer.
The only legal option left for patients hurt by generic drugs is to file a suit based on a flawed manufacturing process. Because manufacturing problems are very rare, the likelihood of success is small.

Brand-Name Medication Lawsuits

Oddly, however, patients injured by taking brand-name drugs retain the right to initiate a lawsuit to recover damages. A variety of medications continue to be the subject of investigations and lawsuits, including:

  • Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, such as Lipitor, Zycor and Crestor.
  • Anti-psychotics, such as Zyprexa, Risperdal and Abilify
  • Painkillers such as Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra
  • Birth control drugs such as Yasmin and Ortho Evra
  • Diabetes drugs such as Actos, Avandia and Takeda

Claims against the manufacturers of these drugs allege a wide range of significant side effects. For example, the cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor is alleged to increase the risk of developing diabetes and memory loss. Taking antipsychotic drugs such as Risperdal and Zyprexa can lead to increased cholesterol, weight gain, and a movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia that can be irreversible.
Diabetes drugs have been shown to cause an increased risk of developing bladder cancer. Yasmin (also sold as Yaz), has been linked with an increased incidence of blood clots. Studies of Vioxx have linked the painkiller to increased risk of heart attack and kidney problems.
Grounds for Defective Drug Lawsuits
Defective drug lawsuits can be brought under several grounds. Plaintiffs may file claims based on defective design, which can include defects in the formulation of a drug. Another type of claim can be based on marketing defects; these types of claims allege that the manufacturer gave incomplete or incorrect instructions or warnings or failed to warn consumers about foreseeable risks at all. The third major basis for a dangerous drug lawsuit is a flaw in the manufacturing process that results n a defect.
Because of the complexity of defective drug claims, consumers seeking damages from a pharmaceutical manufacturer should consult an attorney with knowledge and experience with these types of lawsuits. Many of these cases have been consolidated in one court in an effort to handle as many as possible at one time. A lawyer can advise potential litigants about the best legal strategy for their situation.

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