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Supreme Court Allows Lawsuits against Pharmaceutical Companies to Move Forward

In a severe blow to the drug industry, the Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday limits to lawsuits against drug makers. Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal explains the implications of the ruling.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In a significant defeat for the pharmaceutical industry, the justices today said lawsuits brought against drug companies in state courts may go forward, even if the drug in question had received federal approval.

    To explain the decision and its impact, we're joined once again by Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.

    Welcome back.

  • MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal:

    Thanks, Jeff.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    First, the facts of this case. It involves a kind of nightmare outcome of the use of a drug.

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Very tragic facts. As part of her treatment for migraine headaches, Diana Levine took the drug Phenergan, which is an anti-nausea drug. The drug's manufactured by Wyeth, and it can be delivered in two ways, through an I.V. drip, which is exactly what it sounds like, an I.V. bag and it drips into a catheter inserted in a vein, or through an I.V. push, which is a direct injection into a vein.

    But if the drug mixes with arterial blood, gets into an artery, it caused irreversible gangrene, and that's what happened to Diana Levine. They gave her the drug through an I.V. push, it caused gangrene, and doctors had to amputate first her hand and then her forearm. She also lost her career as a professional musician.