March 28th, 2011

Pa. Justices take up case on negligent design drug claim

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The state Supreme Court has taken up a case about whether plaintiffs may sue pharmaceutical drug companies on theories that the companies were negligent in testing, marketing and designing their prescription drug products.

The Supreme Court’s decision to grant allocatur in Lance v. Wyeth last week has the potential to change the landscape of prescription drug liability in Pennsylvania. The case involves an Ohio woman who died seven years after taking a diet and obesity drug for a four-month period in 1997.

Currently, lawyers say the only cognizable claims plaintiffs can make in Pennsylvania are that drug manufacturers were negligent in failing to warn the plaintiffs’ prescribers of the risks of using their products, or that drugmakers are strictly liable for manufacturing defects.

According to the order granting allocatur, the justices are prepared to consider the validity of a claim for negligent design defect of a prescription drug. Another issue in the case is whether Pennsylvania law should recognize a claim against drug manufacturers for alleged negligence in failing to test drugs for harmful side effects.

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