* Generic drug makers trying to fend off personal injury
* Woman suffered near-blindness, skin damage in drug
By Terry Baynes and Jonathan Stempel
Nov 30 The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed
to consider whether generic drug manufacturers can be subjected
to personal injury lawsuits that allege flaws in the design of
drugs, even if federal law would not allow such cases to go
The court agreed to review a bid by Mutual Pharmaceutical Co
to overturn a $21 million jury award to Karen Bartlett, a New
Hampshire woman who had taken its generic non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drug sulindac for shoulder pain.
Bartlett was left with permanent near-blindness and
burn-like lesions on two-thirds of her body after suffering a
rare hypersensitivity reaction associated with the drug, and
sued Mutual for alleged design defects under New Hampshire law.
Mutual, an indirect unit of Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co
, countered that federal law barred such claims because
its drug had already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, and federal law requires generic drugs to have
the same design as their brand-name equivalents.
It cited the Supreme Court's June 2011 decision in Pliva Inc
v. Mensing that federal law preempted state law claims based on
alleged inadequate label warnings about potential side effects,
given that federal regulations require brand-name and generic
drugs to carry the same labels.
But in May, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston refused to extend this ruling
to design defect claims, and upheld Bartlett's award.
In its appeal to the Supreme Court, Mutual said "scores" of
federal and state courts had rejected the 1st Circuit's
"remarkable claim" that generic drug manufacturers could be
liable under state law for refusing to stop selling their
federally approved products.
Bartlett countered that the Supreme Court should not take
the case, saying that lower courts were not divided over the
issue, and that her award was based on New Hampshire law and
that did not conflict with federal law.
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association submitted a brief in
support of Mutual's appeal. A decision by the Supreme Court is
expected by the end of June.
The case is Mutual Pharmaceutical Co v. Bartlett, U.S.
Supreme Court, No. 12-142.