Defective drugs can be dangerous to consumers

When patients take a drug prescribed by their doctor, they assume it is safe and will not harm them. Unfortunately, some prescription drugs can cause adverse reactions and even death in some patients. When defective drugs are sold to consumers, can the drug manufacturer be held liable in a civil lawsuit?

After a recent Supreme Court ruling, it all depends on the type of drug. If a consumer is harmed by a brand-name drug, he or she can file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. However, if a consumer is harmed by a generic defective drug, it may be difficult to hold the manufacturer liable for any illnesses or injuries caused by the defective product

Previously, the Supreme Court said that generic drug makers cannot be held liable for injuries or illnesses caused by their drugs because they are selling the exact same drug as the orginal brand-name drug. However, in many cases, the brand-name manufacturer says they are not liable either because the consumer did not purchase the drug from them. 

It can be difficult for victims to figure out who can be held responsible for selling defective drugs. A new case before the Supreme Court may help distinguish when generic drug companies can be sued for dangerous drugs. The Supreme Court will be hearing a product liability case filed by a woman who suffered from Stevens Johnson Syndrome after taking a generic medication for shoulder pain. The medication caused the woman's skin to peel off and left her almost blind and disabled. The victim filed a lawsuit against the original manufacturer of the drug alleging that they did not warn consumers about the dangerous side effects of the drug. 

The case before the Supreme Court could change certain defective drug claims. The court will be deciding if the original manufacturer can still be held liable for defective generic drugs. The victim's lawsuit says that the drug manufacturer is responsible for her injuries. On the other side, the brand-name manufacturer says they cannot be held responsible because they did not design or write the warning labels listed on the generic drug, and the FDA requires the generic manufacturer to list any potential side effects. 

The Supreme Court decision could have a big impact on future product liability cases involving generic drugs as almost 80 percent of consumers are prescribed a generic drug instead of the brand-name product. 

Source: Lawyers and Settlements, "Generic Ruling Critial for Consumers," Brenda Craig, April 23, 2013

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