New Bill for Generic Drugs - Consumer Justice Foundation

New Bill for Generic Drugs

Written by Faith Anderson on April 19, 2012
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Pliva v. Mensing Supreme Court Decision

A Supreme Court decision last year (Pliva v. Mensing) prohibited patients from suing generic drug firms because the court ruled that the companies had no control over what their labels said, and therefore couldn’t be held responsible for failing to warn patients about potential side effects. In contrast, an earlier Supreme Court decision made it legal for patients taking brand-name drugs to sue the drug manufacturers for injuries they sustained while taking the medications. Since the decision was made last year, dozens of judges have thrown out lawsuits filed by patients who claim they were harmed by generic drugs, even though many of these patients suffered the same injuries as patients who took the brand-name versions.

“The Mensing decision creates a troubling inconsistency in the law governing prescription drugs,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, who sponsored the bill along with six other Democrats. “If a consumer takes the brand-name version of a drug, she can sue the manufacturer for inadequate warnings. If the pharmacy happens to give her the generic version, she will not be able to seek compensation for her injuries,” he said.

Generic Drug Firms Oppose Bill

Generic drug companies have opposed bills such as these, because they say it would create a situation in which different drug companies could publish conflicting warning information about the same medications. Under the current law, only brand-name drug companies can update the drug warning labels, and generic manufacturers are then required to follow suit. “Federal law requiring that generic medicines have the identical label as the corresponding brand products has provided American consumers the confidence to trust in generics for 80% of their prescription needs,” said Ralph G. Neas, president and chief executive of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association. “This misguided legislation, introduced by Senator Leahy, would disrupt this confidence and unduly burden physicians who would have to be aware of multiple labels for the same product.”

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