Supreme Court ruling could cost pharmaceutical industry ‘billions’

Last March, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a $6.7 million ruling stating that federal law cannot protect pharmaceutical companies from liability lawsuits that are filed in state court, meaning drug companies are responsible for damages created by products even when the FDA has approved drug labels that include warnings of side effects. That ruling is based on a lawsuit involving Wyeth Pharmaceutical drug Phenergan. As a result of the ruling, numerous lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies that had been lying dormant are finally beginning to move toward trial, according to Bloomberg.

One such case involves Barr Pharmaceuticals, which tried to block a suit in federal court in Oklahoma City over its generic form of metoclopramide, commonly known by the brand name Reglan, a treatment for acid reflux. The plaintiff in that case claimed the drug caused her to develop tardive dyskinesia, a neurological disorder. U.S. District Judge Vicki Mills-LaGrange denied Barr Pharmaceutical’s request, citing the outcome of the Wyeth case.

Tardive dyskinesia is an often irreversible condition that is characterized by involuntary, repetitive movements of the extremities, or lip smacking, grimacing, tongue protrusion, rapid eye movements or blinking, puckering and pursing of the lips, or impaired movement of the fingers.

It is likely the Supreme Court decision will cost the pharmaceutical drug market “billions of dollars,” according to one attorney quoted by Bloomberg. “There’s no way to quantify it, but the number has as many zeroes in it as attacked Pearl Harbor.”