“Pharmaceutical liability” is the term used to describe the legal consequences a manufacturer of drugs may face if its products injure people. Cases involving injuries caused by drugs, such as Vioxx, medical devices and other pharmaceuticals are a subset of products liability cases. Drugs and other pharmaceuticals can have several defects, including design defects, manufacturing defects, problems with the testing of the drug, inadequate warnings or improper instructions for use. Any of these problems can cause serious injuries. If you believe that a medicine, herbal supplement or medical device, such as a heart valve, has caused you to suffer from serious, adverse side effects or other injuries, an experienced pharmaceutical liability attorney can evaluate your situation and explain your options for recovery.
Theories of Liability
Adverse side effects are a common problem with prescription and over-the-counter medicines. While all medications have certain minor and relatively harmless side effects, a drug manufacturer has a duty to inform physicians regarding the known risks associated with its drugs. If a manufacturer fails to do so, it may be liable for failing to provide adequate warnings to patients who were injured based on a product liability theory. Drug manufacturers can also be held liable for injuries to consumers based on theories of negligence, or even intentional or malicious conduct. Here are some of the common legal theories available to plaintiffs in pharmaceutical liability litigation:
- Failure to warn about a drug’s potential risk or side effects (including reactions with other medications)
- Defective design of the drug
- Inadequate testing of a medication prior to its sale and use by consumers
- Over-promotion and aggressive advertising by the manufacturer has led to a corresponding increase in liability for injuries attributed to the drugs being marketed
- Contaminated drugs
Building the Plaintiff’s Case
The first step is to identify the defect in the medicine or device that caused the plaintiff’s injury. For example, a drug may have an adverse side effect such as causing an increased risk for heart attacks. The plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defect actually caused his or her injury. In order to prove causation, the plaintiff generally needs the help of an expert witness, usually a doctor, who will testify that the drug caused the plaintiff’s injury. The defense will generally try to show that the plaintiff’s injury was caused by something besides the drug, such as a preexisting medical condition.
The plaintiff’s attorney will gather information and evidence relevant to the case. The attorney will need his or her client’s medical history, medical records related to treatment and information about how frequently the client took the drug and in what amounts. There is also an opportunity to request relevant information about the drug from the defendant through a process called discovery. In discovery, the parties can request documents from the other side and depose witnesses. Evidence that may be helpful to the plaintiff’s case includes: reports of adverse drug reactions, complaints the manufacturer received about the drug, correspondence between the defendant and the FDA, materials from clinical trials, laboratory studies, sales and advertising information, product labels and inserts, prior lawsuits involving the drug and medical or scientific studies funded by the defendant.
In addition to the company that made the drug or nutritional supplement that caused your injuries, you may also be able to pursue pharmaceutical liability claims against the doctor who prescribed the medication; company that distributed the medicine; pharmacist who dispensed the drug; nurse who gave the medication; or hospital that employed the doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
If you experience any adverse reactions to a prescription drug, such as Vioxx, nutritional supplement or medical device, tell your doctor immediately. In addition, talk to an experienced pharmaceutical liability attorney so that he or she can evaluate your situation and determine whether you have a claim for damages against the manufacturer or another party.
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If you have any questions, or if you would like to speak with an attorney regarding health problems caused by your use of Vioxx, please do not hesitate to call our downtown Minneapolis office toll-free at 877-544-1757. If you prefer, you may e-mail or fill out the form on the Contact Us page of this web site, and a representative from our office will be in touch with you shortly. We look forward to hearing from you!
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