Supreme Court of Alabama Rules Generic Reglan User Can Sue

Plaintiffs involved in Reglan litigation won a big victory against brand name drug manufacturers Wyeth, Pfizer and Schwarz Pharma, as the result of a very good decision recently decided by the Alabama Supreme Court.

Alabama Supreme Court’s decision to allow a patient to sue drug manufacturer, Pfizer, for damages is the first of its kind and it is anticipated many more will follow. Although the decision applies only to Alabama, it is likely to be closely read by lawyers with similar cases pending around the country whose clients have been barred from suing generic companies because of a recent United States Supreme Court ruling.

Danny Weeks claims he developed the chronic, serious movement disorder known as tardive dyskinesia after taking generic versions of the stomach drug Reglan, to treat his acid reflux. Mr. Weeks sued Actavis and Teva, which had made the versions that he used, as well as Wyeth, which developed the branded drug. (The suit was filed in a federal court in Alabama because Mr. Weeks lives in Alabama and the drug companies are based elsewhere).

Pfizer purchased Wyeth in 2009, inheriting all the patient claims relating to Reglan. As the New York Times reported, hundreds of patients have filed lawsuits, alleging that Wyeth did not do enough to warn about Reglan’s potential links to tardive dyskinesia and other risks.

In 2009, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required all manufacturers of metoclopramide, the generic name for Reglan, to place stronger warnings on their labels detailing a link between long-term use of the drug and tardive dyskinesia.    

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that generic drug makers could not be sued for failing to warn patients about a drug’s risks. Generic drugs are required to use the same FDA-approved labeling as the branded versions, in order to avoid “copy-cat” drug makers from controlling whether warnings and risk information are included. Patients who took the generic drugs could not sue the manufacturers, but the federal court asked the Alabama Supreme Court whether a branded company could be sued in such a case.

This is how the Alabama Supreme Court ruled regarding this issue. The Court ruled that “an omission or defect in the labeling for the brand-name drug would necessarily be repeated in the generic labeling, foreseeably causing harm to a patient who ingested the generic product,” the New York Times reports.

However, other courts have ruled differently. The New York Times reported there were 70 decisions that had gone the other way. The Alabama suit utilizes a particular aspect of Alabama state law allowing third parties to be held liable for injury in certain cases. Third parties like Wyeth can be held liable for a person’s injury if that third party provided false or misleading information that led to the injury. Mr. Weeks argued that Wyeth misinformed his doctor, not Mr. Weeks himself.

Following this ruling, plaintiffs may now sue both the generic they took as well as the brand responsible for the labeling.

Later this year, arguments in another Supreme Court case involving generic makers’ liability will be heard. In Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett, the Court will decide whether patients can sue generic makers in state court for damages or whether following federal rules would be enough to shield them from those legal complaints.

This ruling will pave the way for so many patients who suffered permanent injuries as a result of taking generic versions of Reglan. Hopefully, it will help millions of consumers seek compensation for their pain and suffering as a result of injuries sustained from taking generics of all kinds.

If you or a loved one took the generic version of Reglan and experienced adverse side effects, you may be entitled to compensation. Feel free to contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 800-246-HURT (4878).

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