Generic Lawsuit Ascends to Supreme Court

Elise Kramer | December 27th, 2012

Reglan childA lawsuit filed by a plaintiff who experienced serious side effects from a generic medication will be reviewed by the Supreme Court. The plaintiff, Karen Bartlett, is a New Hampshire resident who claims that drug maker Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. should be held liable for the injuries she sustained after taking a generic medication known as sulindac; however, Mutual argues that an earlier decision made by the Supreme Court means that they should not be able to be held liable. This legal battle mirrors those waged over generic Reglan lawsuits, filed by plaintiffs who have been plagued by side effects of a generic form of a medication but find themselves with little legal recourse.

Generic drug results in permanent side effects

Plaintiff Bartlett says that she was prescribed sulindac, which is a generic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, by a doctor. The plaintiff subsequently spent 70 days in the hospital–with 50 of those days being spent in the burn unit–for symptoms of a condition known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is a severe skin reaction that caused the plaintiff to suffer two episodes of septic shock, leaving her permanently blind and with burns over 65 percent of her body.

Plaintiff Bartlett took Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. to trial and was awarded in December 2004 with a $21 million jury verdict after it was determined that Stevens-Johnson Syndrome could be linked to the use of sulindac. Now Mutual is claiming that a Supreme Court decision made over generic Reglan lawsuits means that they should not be able to be held liable for these side effects, because they are a generic manufacturer.

Supreme Court decision complicates lawsuits

The Supreme Court ruled that generic drug makers could not be held accountable for side effects patients experience so long as their warning labels match those on the brand name packaging in a case known as Pliva v. Mensing. This has left many patients dealing with Reglan side effects and other generic complications with few legal options.

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