Patients Taking Generic Drugs May Now Be Able to Sue Brand name Drug Makers

If you were injured by a dangerous generic prescription drug, you may still be able to seek justice in the courts. Drug recall lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight recent Alabama Supreme Court verdict in favor of a man who sued a brand name drug company for failure to warn of dangerous risks, even though he took generic version. This case is expected to have implications in drug litigation throughout the country.

The plaintiff, Danny Weeks, developed a rare movement disorder, tardive dyskinsia, after taking the generic version of Reglan, a drug intended to treat acid reflux. The generics were manufactured by Actavis and Teva and developed by Wyeth (purchased in 2009 by drug giant Pfizer). Weeks sued all three of these companies, claiming that they failed to adequately inform him of the drug’s risks.

The FDA acknowledged this misinformation issue in 2009, when it required all metoclopramide manufacturers (Reglan’s generic name) to include stronger warning labels on its products. The agency specifically requested that the companies detail the association between tardive dyskinsia and long-term use of the drug. To date, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed citing the manufacturer’s failure to warn about the risk of developing the movement disorder.

A United States Supreme Court decision in 2011 further complicated this issue. In Pliva v. Mensing, the Court ruled that generic drug manufacturers cannot be sued for failure to warn because they do not have independent control over their drug labels. The vast majority of generic drug companies are required to use the same labeling as the brand name version

The Alabama Supreme Court reasoned that the brand name drug maker may still be sued, however, because failure to warn of risks in the labeling of the brand name drugs would consequently be mirrored in the labels of the generic drugs.

Not surprisingly, Pfizer representatives argued that the brand name company should not be held responsible for harm caused by a drug that it did not even manufacture. Nevertheless, the court allowed the lawsuit to go forward.

It is important to note that no other Supreme Court in the country has adopted a similar theory of liability allowing victims of injured generic prescriptions to sue brand name drug makers. In Alabama, however, state law allows those injured by a misleading statement to sue an entity, even if the misrepresentation itself was actually made to a third party. Based on this, Weeks argued that the brand name drug makers of Reglan made a mispresentation to his prescribing doctor by understating the drug’s risks, which subsequently caused injury to Weeks.

Still, for the innumerable patients injured by dangerous generic drugs, this case provides immense hope for justice. When injuries are the result of a label’s failure to warn or false, misleading information, manufacturers need to be held responsible. Because federal law prohibits these types of lawsuits to be filed against generic companies, brand name companies may be the only source of recourse.

There are many cases currently pending throughout the country dealing with this issue, and it will be interesting to see how these cases are handled after this ruling. Many are calling this case a landmark decision, introducing a new theory of liability into American courts. Prior to this case, more than 70 lower courts nationwide sided with brand-name companies in similar lawsuits. In only two of these cases, in California and Vermont, did the court allow plaintiffs to proceed against brand name companies. Prescription drug lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are hopeful that victims of dangerous generic prescription drugs nationwide may now have a chance at the justice they deserve.