How Dangerous Drug Lawsuits Work
If you watch television, use the Internet, or read the news, you’ve undoubtedly heard about several dangerous drug lawsuits. One current example is the Zantac litigation , in which thousands of people who took the GERD/acid reflux drug Zantac (or surviving family members of people who took Zantac) are alleging the drug caused several different types of cancer.
Pharmaceutical Product Liability Cases
Lawsuits based on dangerous drugs are most often product liability claims. These lawsuits typically allege one or more of the following:
- That the drug’s design (meaning the drug’s formulation) is flawed, and that flaw resulted in the negative impact on the plaintiff,
- That defects in the manufacturing process made the drug dangerous, or
- That the manufacturer and/or distributors of the drug failed to provide adequate warnings or appropriate instructions
Product liability claims in Massachusetts are strict liability claims. That means the plaintiff doesn’t have to show that the manufacturer was negligent. If the drug was defective in one of the ways listed above when it left the manufacturer’s hands, they can be held liable for any harm it causes. Others in the distribution chain, such as the retail pharmacy that provided the drug, may also be liable.
While that can make one element of the claim simpler, the plaintiff must prove that the flaw in the drug or failure to provide adequate warnings caused the harm. This can be a challenge because the conditions developed are often illnesses or effects that can have many other causes. Demonstrating the connection generally requires the use of expert witnesses who can make the scientific connection between losing the drug and the resulting condition.
Drug-Related Medical Malpractice Claims
While most dangerous drug cases focus on the manufacturers and distributors of the drug, some cases may also include a claim against the prescribing physician. This type of claim isn’t always supportable, since physicians may reasonably rely on FDA approval and information provided to them by drug manufacturers. However, some drugs are discovered to have serious risks and nonetheless remain on the market–typically with warnings provided to medical professionals and perhaps in product labeling.
For example, the prescription drug Elmiron, used to treat a bladder condition called interstitial cystitis, has been linked to vision loss and other eye problems. Despite studies supporting this link and hundreds of lawsuits having been filed around the country, the FDA has not withdrawn approval for the drug and the company has said it has no intention of withdrawing it from the market. Situations like this leave the decision about use of a potentially dangerous drug in the hands of the physician and patient.
In other cases, a drug may be reasonably safe for some demographics, but more dangerous for others. For example, a drug may carry a more significant risk of serious side effects in people over a certain age, or people who have certain underlying medical conditions, or people who are taking another medication.
If the treating physician knew (or should have known) of the risks and disregarded them or failed to properly inform the patient, they may share liability.
What to Do If You’ve Been Harmed by a Drug
If you believe that you’ve suffered significant or long-term harm from a medication–prescription or over the counter–your first step is to consult a physician. You may want to consider consulting a physician other than the one who prescribed you the drug or would have been responsible for monitoring you while taking the drug. Top priority is to cut off any increasing harm if possible and treat your condition.
Then, you’ll want to consult an attorney who is experienced in drug liability cases. The legal elements of a product liability case are different from those in a personal injury case, and it’s important that you work with an attorney who has a thorough understanding of pharmaceutical liability cases. An experienced defective drug lawyer will also know how to secure the right expert witnesses to build the strongest possible case on your behalf.
You can take that step right now, by calling 978-459-3085 or filling out the contact form on this site.
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