Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Applauds U.S. Supreme Court Decision Upholding Right Of States, Individuals To Sue For Injuries Caused By Drugs

March 4, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today praised a U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming the right of states and individuals to sue pharmaceutical companies when they fail to adequately warn consumers about injuries their drugs could cause.

Blumenthal and 46 other state attorneys general filed a friend of court brief asking the court to reach this conclusion.

The case stemmed from a woman whose arm had to be amputated after she was treated at a Vermont clinic with the ant-nausea drug Phenergan using a so-called "IV-push" method. Drug maker Wyeth knew that method of administrating the drug carried the risk of gangrene, which can lead to amputation, but failed to adequately warn doctors and patients in its labeling or other communications.

Wyeth alleged that because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug's label, the woman could not sue in state court. A decision in favor of Wyeth would have severely restricted the ability of individuals and states to sue drug companies for injuries caused by their products because of the claim, rejected today by the U.S. Supreme Court, that FDA approval precluded litigation.

"This ruling is a huge, potentially life-saving victory for consumers, affirming their right to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for failing to adequately warn patients and doctors about the dangers of their drugs," Blumenthal said. "The court preserved the ability of consumers and states to sue drug companies that cause serious injury or death by failing to disclose dangerous and deadly side effects. Drug companies have a legal and moral responsibility to fully inform consumers and physicians of any and all dangers associated with their products.

"Wyeth shamefully sought to slip responsibility by denying patients injured by its drugs their day in court. The company's action was cold, calculating and callous. Instead of spending untold sums trying to evade responsibility, Wyeth should have improved and upgraded its labeling and outreach to assure doctors and patients are fully informed of all risks associated with its drugs.

"Wyeth's argument that FDA approval of the drug's label precludes litigation was cynical beyond belief given the relentless drug company campaign to undermine, degrade and weaken federal oversight. This case unmasks Big Pharma's heartless greed, showing that it cares more about money than patient wellbeing.

"I will continue to aggressively fight for the safety of prescription drugs and to assure patients are fully informed of all potential side effects and can sue when they are injured."