Philadelphia personal injury attorneys are always on top of the latest legal news and trends. Typically, those new laws or findings in court may have an impact on future cases and can have an effect on its outcome. Whether those effects are favorable or not, it is important to be aware of any changes so that the clients can be advised to help them make the best decisions about their case.
This past summer, a decision regarding generic drug and pharmaceutical products changed the way some people think about filling prescriptions. Messa & Associates attorney, Tom Sweeney, shares his thoughts on the recent United States Supreme Court decision below.
Like clockwork, around the time that the school year is winding down and summer is starting, we hear stories on the news about big Supreme Court decisions. Most of the time, these news stories involve cases about extremely technical questions of the law which have little impact on our everyday lives. In June, however, the United States Supreme Court announced an extremely significant decision that affects anyone who purchases prescription or over-the-counter medications at their pharmacy or grocery store; just about all of us.
In Bartlett v. Mutual Pharmaceuticals, the Supreme Court found that generic drug makers cannot be liable for injuries caused by their products. The Supreme Court’s decision makes generic drug manufacturers immune from suit in the United States if their drug injures someone. Generic drugs are essentially copies of name-brand pharmaceuticals. Think of Walgreens/CVS/Target acetaminophen (generic) vs. Tylenol (name-brand). Though the active ingredient, acetaminophen, is the same in both drugs, the products liability law is different. As a result of the Bartlett case, if you get sick from the generic drug you would be out of luck if you tried to sue. That restriction does not apply to brand name drugs.
In Bartlett, the plaintiff, Karen Bartlett, suffered Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a rare but well-known allergic reaction to the pain-reliever sulindac. As a result of the SJS caused by the drug that was prescribed to treat shoulder pain, Bartlett suffered permanent and disfiguring injuries. She suffered burns on 65% of her body and was in a medically induced coma for months. For more than a year, she ate through a feeding tube. She endured 12 eye surgeries and is now nearly blind. She filed suit in New Hampshire claiming that the drug was “unreasonably dangerous.” A jury in New Hampshire awarded Bartlett $21 million. Though it found that Bartlett’s injuries were “horrific” and “tragic,” the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, took away the jury award. The Supreme Court ruled that a person injured by a generic drug cannot pursue state law design-defect claims against the drug manufacturer.
Now, when people go to fill their prescriptions at the pharmacy, they have no idea whether they are receiving name-brand or generic versions of the drugs. Many insurance plans require the pharmacy to fill the prescription with the generic version. In fact, there are 434 generic drugs for which no equivalent brand products are sold. Once the FDA approves the sale of a generic drug, drug manufacturers have a right to continue to sell it free from liability.
The implications of the Bartlett decision are frightening when you consider that generic drug manufacturers account for nearly 80% of all prescriptions filled in the United States. Therefore, in four of every five prescriptions filled in the United States, Americans will not have the right to pursue remedies against drug manufacturers if they get sick or are injured by a drug. When you go to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription, a mindless decision by the pharmacist could determine whether you are allowed to seek damages against a pharmaceutical company if the drug hurts you or your family member.
The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Messa & Associates are experienced at handling cases involving pharmaceutical and drug product injuries. Our extremely skilled team of personal injury lawyers and medical experts is dedicated to ensuring you receive proper compensation for your personal injuries. If you have suffered an injury as a result of a defective pharmaceutical drug product, or any other type of personal injury, contact the personal injury lawyers of Messa & Associates for a free consultation. Call toll free at 1-877-MessaLaw, or submit a free online inquiry.
Joseph L. Messa, Jr. is the founding partner of Messa & Associates, P.C. He is an AV-rated attorney (highest rating available), listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. Read More