Earlier this month, justices of the Supreme Court ruled that patients injured through use of a drug can sue the drug maker even when the drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s a landmark judgment, and it promises to offer patients who suffer when a pharmaceutical company is negligent, the right to seek civil justice. .
The ruling upheld the $7 million awarded to musician Diane Levine who lost her arm to gangrene after being injected with Wyeth’s Phenargan medicine.Levine had been prescribed the drug for nausea, and was administered the drug through a method called "IV push."Phenargan is not meant to be administered though this method. Levine filed a product liability lawsuit alleging that the warnings against the IV push method specified on the box, weren’t strong enough. At the time, the drug’s warning label did not include specific warnings against using the IV push method. Levine was awarded damages of $6.7 million, but Wyeth argued that FDA approval should give the company immunity against product liability lawsuits.The SC decision had been eagerly waited by Georgia product liability attorneys and patients who have filed or are in the process of filing personal injury lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for injuries caused by their drugs. The court in a 6-3 ruling has now ruled in favor of Levine, and the larger patient community.
The decision is one product liability lawyers had hoped for.In the past, the SC has shown a slant towards big business interests, and recent attempts in Georgia to grant immunity to pharmaceutical companies in case of injuries caused by drugs approved by the FDA, had many of us very worried. As expected, pharmaceutical companies aren’t too pleased with the Supreme Court decision, and we don’t blame them.After all, this means that these companies will not be able to use FDA approval for their drugs as a screen to shield them form lawsuits. For thousands of patients around the country who have been waiting for the Wyeth vs. Levine decision to proceed with their lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, much uncertainty has been lifted with the Supreme Court ruling.