Mutual Pharmaceutical Company v. Bartlett: Supreme Court Protects Makers of Unsafe Generic Drugs

According to the Los Angeles Times, generic drugs are the nation’s most commonly used medications. In fact, roughly 80% of prescriptions prescribed by doctors are for generic drugs. Unfortunately for consumers, if a person suffers injury as the result of a defective generic drug, he or she is barred from suing the manufacturer for damages. In a 5-4 decision last Monday, the Supreme Court tossed out a $21 million jury verdict awarded to Karen Bartlett, a woman who is now legally blind and lost nearly two-thirds of her skin after taking the generic pain killer Sulindac to relieve shoulder pain.

The dangerous drug lawyers at Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis, Inc. believe that drug manufacturers should be held liable for failing to warn about the known dangers of their product.

The Supreme Court ruled that because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved Sulindac, the state’s consumer protection laws no longer apply. This escape from liability makes it almost impossible for generic drug manufacturers to take responsibility for their products. Consumers may still sue the makers of brand-name drugs for defective design, but this only helps the small percentage of consumers who are prescribed non-generic medications.

The Mutual Pharmaceutical Company v. Bartlett decision is not the first time the Supreme Court has favored drug manufacturers over injured consumers. Two years ago, in its decision regarding Pliva v. Mensing, the Supreme Court ruled that consumers injured by generic drugs could not sue the manufacturer for failing to adequately warn of side effects.

The FDA is currently discussing whether to allow generic drug manufactures the ability to update their labels.

To find out what these decisions may mean for other cases, visit our blog again for the second and final article of our blog series.

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