Ruling: patients may sue generic drug makers under state law

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has found in favor with a lower court that patients may sue generic drug makers under state law for failing to provide adequate warnings about potential side effects with their drugs. The ruling extends a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling governing makers of name-brand drugs. The issue of whether generic drug companies should be held liable for not adequately warning consumers has divided several district courts, which can increase the odds of a Supreme Court review in the future, according to U.S. Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham.

The Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that Actavis Inc., could face claims made by Julie Demahy, of Louisiana, who said the drug maker should have warned her of risks of serious adverse events associated with metoclopramide, a medication used to treat heartburn, GERD and gastroparesis, and known by the brand name Reglan. Demahy claimed she suffered a debilitating movement disorder known as Tardive Dyskinesia after taking metoclopramide, and that the drug company failed to alert her of any risks associated with the medication or to change the drug’s labeling to warn of the risk of developing the disorder.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered a black box warning on metoclopramide prescriptions after reports of Tardive Dyskinesia were associated with use of the medication. Long-term use of 12 weeks or more increased one’s risk of developing the disorder to 20 percent or more.