The Supreme Court today issued a decision in the case, Wyeth v. Levine, 06-1249. By a vote of 6 to 3, the court ruled that Diana Winn Levine had the right to sue the drug company, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. The immediate result of this decision is that consumers who are victims of drug mislabeling or lack of warnings will now have a chance to argue their cases in state courts.
Mike Davis, co-founder and partner at Austin’s Slack Davis Sanger, L.L.P., has represented clients in numerous drug cases and applauds the Supreme Court decision.
“Today’s ruling is a win for consumers over the drug companies and other industries who seek to hide behind the federal government’s minimum safety standards, by seeking immunity from responsibility for their defective products,” said Davis. “The most we can expect from a federal regulatory agency is for it to establish a minimum or floor for consumer protection,” he added. “These agencies just aren’t equipped to address the full spectrum of what is safe.”
Davis’ case experience has shown:
- In the rush to get products to market, pharmaceutical companies may fail to disclose certain side effects or health risks.
- In some cases, adequate time is not spent on clinical trials, or researchers may miss important findings that come to light only after products are on the market and harm people.
- Mistakes can be made in manufacturing, which may result in tainted or defective products.
The following list represents a few selected cases litigated by Slack Davis Sanger attorneys:
—Multiple recoveries for cases involving deaths or severe injuries from Baycol, manufactured by Bayer. Each case was settled individually. Baycol (cerivastatin) is one of the “statin” class of drugs. Due to at least 31 deaths in the United States, Bayer withdrew Baycol in August 2001 after marketing its product aggressively. The deaths were attributed to the condition rhabdomyolysis, which is the breakdown of muscle-cell membranes and release of the contents of muscle cells into the bloodstream.
— Lead role in negotiating the confidential terms and amounts of the nationwide Norplant settlement for 1,400 women against American Home Products and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, the makers of Norplant. The women using Norplant were not adequately warned about the implanted contraceptive’s serious side effects.
— Multiple recoveries related to serious injuries from patients’ use of Vioxx, a drug prescribed to persons with chronic pain symptoms and commonly used by persons with arthritis. Heart attack, stroke, blood clots and colon damage are harmful effects that have been evaluated in persons prescribed this medication.
— Multiple recoveries related to serious injuries from patients’ use of Fen-phen, an anti-obesity medication made from fenfluramine and phentermine.
Note: Today’s ruling does not include medical devices. In last year’s Riegel v. Medtronic case, the Supreme Court ruled that the premarket approval process for medical devices (e.g. Medtronic pacemakers) barred injured patients from filing lawsuits against device makers.
More information about products on the U.S. Medical Product Watch List (Drugs, Biologics, Medical Devices, Special Nutritionals, and Cosmetics) can be found here.