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Product Liability Drugs and Pharmaceutical Companies

Drugs that are advertised or prescribed by a doctor appear to be safe. Many people obtain over-the-counter or prescription medications to handle undesirable health conditions. Numerous drug ads appear on television and today drug commercials are more prevalent than ever. However, unlike past commercials, today’s commercials frequently contain lengthy disclaimers warning about a long list of adverse side effects that usually appear much more ominous than the condition the drug is supposed to treat. Listings generally go from bad to worse such as, “side-effects may include: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, cancer, renal failure, suicidal tendencies, death, etc.” These disclaimers exist because of the harm certain drugs have caused to unsuspecting consumers.

Pharmaceutical companies’ profits rise, but at what risk to consumers?

According to, the pharmaceutical industry continues to increase profits despite tough economic times with an annual growth rate of 5.1 %, making $300.3 billion in 2009.

Antipsychotics had the highest gross sales at $14.6 billion, followed by cholesterol regulators at $14.3 billion. Lipitor, a drug that reduces cholesterol and is manufactured by Pfizer was the single highest grossing cholesterol medication earning revenue of $7.5 billion.

However many of these popular drugs seriously harm people.

A 2006 article in Medical News Today disclosed information from a Thomson West analysis conducted for the L.A. Times. It indicated that plaintiffs had filed more than 71,000 product liability lawsuits related to prescription drugs in federal courts since 2001.

According to the research more than one-third of federal court product liability lawsuits were prescription drug related.

The analysis suggested that pharmaceutical industry’s business practices to boost profits resulted in an increased number of consumer advertisements. For example with Vioxx, more than 20 million patients used Vioxx before Merck withdrew it from the market in 2004. Statistics also showed that 23,500 plaintiffs across the United States brought Vioxx-based lawsuits against Merck.

Is warning about the harmful risks of taking drugs enough?

In some cases, warning about drug risks has prevented liability for drug companies. However, The New York Times reported in 2009 that a female musician won a Supreme Court ruling against Wyeth where a jury awarded her $6.7 million for an injection of a Wyeth anti-nausea drug that caused gangrene, resulting in amputation of her arm. Wyeth argued that its compliance with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) labeling requirement should have prohibited a lawsuit. The Supreme Court disagreed about the implied preemption and upheld the state court ruling for the plaintiff.

Product liability for Wyeth and other prominent drug companies

Wyeth is a leading pharmaceutical company with a track record of lawsuits ranging from $21 billion in settlements for tens of thousands of fen-phen (weight loss drug) claims connected with heart and lung problems to more recently, over 5,000 lawsuits involving Prempro and Premarin, which are menopausal hormone replacement drugs that cause breast cancer. Other lawsuits brought against well known drugs include:
  • Neurotin. Lawsuits allege Neurotin (taken for pain, seizure and bipolar disorders) results in suicides, Pfizer revised labels to list “suicide” and “suicide attempts” as frequent adverse events associated with the drug.
  • Zyprexa. Eli Lilly settled approximately 10,500 Zyprexa lawsuits for an estimated $1 billion based on allegations that it caused diabetes and high blood glucose.
  • AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca faced lawsuits similar to the Zyprexa lawsuits for diabetes risk and claims that the company hid safety information from the FDA.
  • Ortho Evra birth control patches. Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical and parent Johnson & Johnson face lawsuits for Ortho Evra birth control patches that have caused blood clots due to exposing users to 60% more estrogen than typical birth control pills.
Other notable drugs subject to lawsuits for harming consumers include:
  • Accutane. A treatment for severe acne and cancer that causes Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • Baycol. A treatment for high cholesterol known to cause a fatal condition called rhabdomyolysis, a disease that breaks down muscles and causes kidney damage (removed from the market in 2001).
  • Bextra. A drug used for osteoarthritis to relieve pain, swelling, and fever, withdrawn by Pfizer in 2005 due to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and serious skin reactions.
  • Crestor. A drug used to lower cholesterol that caused patients to develop kidney failure or muscle damage.
  • Ketek. A drug used in treating pneumonia that resulted in liver failure for some patients.
  • Rezulin. A drug used to treat diabetes recalled by the FDA in 2000 that caused liver damage or liver failure.
  • Vioxx. A drug used for arthritis pain relief that was linked to heart attack, stroke and sudden cardiac death and under FDA recall in 2004.

Legal assistance from experienced product liability lawyers

Bush Lewis lawyers have been handling pharmaceutical and medical device cases since the 1970’s when Ken Lewis was involved in the Dalkon shield and swine flu immunization national litigation. Bush Lewis has the wherewithal and experience to take on large pharmaceutical companies in cases involving product liability claims of clients who are seriously injured or have tragically lost other family members. We represent clients throughout the United States, using our reservoir of knowledge, skills and experience to determine whether grounds exist for a lawsuit and, in the right cases, developing a winning strategy. Based on a pharmaceutical company’s testing, efforts to obtain FDA approval, labeling and marketing of a dangerous drug and expert review, we can evaluate the prospects of successfully pursuing a case. Whether or not a drug has been recalled or obtained FDA approval does not necessarily absolve a company of liability when such drugs cause death or serious injury.

See our Results page for information about product liability cases we have successfully handled against drug companies.

If you suspect that a drug caused serious injury or a death in your family, get the legal help you need. Call personal injury attorney Ken Lewis today at 409-835-3521, or contact us through our website.

1 USA Today

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