The ultra-conservative majority of the Supreme Court has a chance to redeem itself tomorrow by looking out for the interest of American citizens instead of generic drug manufacturers.
The Court will hear arguments Tuesday about whether generic drugmakers can be held liable for their products when those products harm consumers. The plaintiff in the case was severely injured by the generic drug Sulindac in 2004, which caused permanent damage to her lungs and esophagus, and inflicted burn-like wounds on 60 to 65 percent of her body. She spent months in a medically induced coma while her wounds were treated.
The plaintiff sued the manufacturer and was awarded $21 million in damages, including $16.5 million for pain and suffering. Mutual Pharmaceutical Company thought that was excessive, and challenged the decision. However, the ruling was bravely upheld by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.
So far, the Supreme Court’s track record doesn’t look good when it comes to legal relief for consumers harmed by generic drugs. In a 2011 decision, the court chose to protect generic drug manufacturers from failure-to-warn cases involving improper labeling because they could not change warning labels that were based on the brand name product.
In this case, the court has a chance to uphold one of the only options left for patients who are harmed by generic drugs, which account for 80 percent of all prescriptions in the U.S. Although they have no choice on its warning label, they did and do have the choice to take a harmful drug off the market. As the appeals court noted, “the decision to make the drug and market [Sulindac] in New Hampshire is wholly its own.”
Ashley Wright is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.