Pfizer Inc. Can be Sued for Injury Caused by Generic

Published: Jan 14, 2013

Here is a court ruling that is going to rile brand-name drugmakers. Late last week, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Pfizer can be sued by a man who claimed he was injured by a generic version of its Reglan heartburn medicine, because the brand-name drugmaker purportedly failed to warn his physician about the risks. This is one of the few instances in which a court has found that a brand-name drugmaker can be sued even though a consumer had taken only a generic, suggesting that consumers will be encouraged to file still more such lawsuits, especially in the wake of a 2011 ruling by the US Supreme Court that has limited claims against generic drugmakers.In that ruling, the US Supreme Court decided that generic drugmakers are not required to strengthen labeling if alerted to side effects, even when the same change has not been to the labeling for the branded medication. The decision has meant that generic drugmakers cannot be sued for not alerting patients to such risks (back story). Pfizer, meanwhile, already faces many lawsuits over Reglan warnngs. In the Alabama case, Danny Weeks took Reglan and developed tardive dyskinesia, which causes incurable and involuntary muscle movements. Although he took only generics, Weeks accused Wyeth, which sold Reglan and is now owned by Pfizer (PFE), and two generic drugmakers – Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA) and Actavis – of failing to warn of the risk of long-term use. At issue was whether Weeks could press his lawsuit against Pfizer, a question that a federal court asked the Alabama Supreme Court to decide. In its ruling, the Alabama court wrote that β€œan omission or defect in the labeling for the brand-name drug would necessarily be repeated in the generic labeling, foreseeably causing harm to a patient who ingested the generic product.”

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