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Patient rights in question in Supreme Court pharmaceutical case

Oral arguments were recently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in a major pharmaceutical case that could affect injured parties in Texas and throughout the country. At issue is whether drug manufacturers can be held liable for injuries suffered by patients who were prescribed dangerous medications.

In this particular case, a woman suffered burns to her skin as a result of taking a prescription painkiller. Those burns turned into an open wound, and she is now permanently disabled. In fact, the label on the drug warned against the very disease the woman suffered, but her lawsuit argues that the drug was too dangerous to even go to market, regardless of any warnings.

The case relates tangentially to a 2011 Supreme Court ruling, whereby the justices decided that patients cannot sue drug makers over the labels on their products. However, drug manufacturers do have a legal obligation to inform doctors and patients about the potential side effects of drugs.

In this particular case, the Food and Drug Administration had actually approved the drug, but the FDA, according Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, is only responsible for telling manufacturers which drugs can and cannot go to market. The FDA, she said, does not force those drug makers to sell their products after approval is given.

Regardless of the FDA approval, the lawsuit in this case argues that the dangerous painkiller never should have been available for prescription in the first place, and that the drug maker is responsible for the woman's injuries.

The lawsuit is one more in a long series of pharmaceutical liability cases. Galveston residents who have been injured because of a dangerous prescription drug need to be fully aware of their right to pursue compensation.

The Supreme Court is supposed to issue a ruling on the current lawsuit this summer.

Source: The Hill, "Supreme Court weighs limits on lawsuits over dangerous drugs," Sam Baker, March 19, 2013

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