Many comedy skits have focused on the relationship between senior citizens and their medications. Over the past few decades there has been an explosion of medications available help patients deal with a wide range of medical health issues. Because the body is prone to more ailments as one ages, it is not uncommon for seniors to have various issues at the same time, requiring use of many different medications at once.
While these drugs are critical in minimizing symptoms, prolonging life, and otherwise making life easier to live, they are not without their risks. For one thing, because seniors so often are on different medications at once, it is incumbent upon caregivers to understand whether any combinations pose too high risks. Also, it is essentially that individual drugs be properly vetted to ensure their side-effects and potential serious harms are mitigated. Sadly, we still have a long way to go before all preventable medication errors are actually avoided, and many dangerous drugs continue to be produced and provided to unsuspecting patients.
Dangerous Drug Liability
When a medication causes harm, legal liability for the harm may fall on different parties, including medical providers who prescribed it, the pharmacists who filled the order, facilities where a patient resides, or the manufacturer of the drug itself. The specific cause of the harm often dictates which of those (or more than one) might be responsible.
The legal rules surrounding these liability issues are somewhat complex–and they are actually still evolving. For example, it is unclear if the rules are the same for the original manufacturer of a drug and those who make generic versions of it. A case that is to be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court will hopefully decide the issue for good in the interests of patient’s rights.
As discussed in a recent New York Times article on the case, the particular case began when a woman filed a lawsuit alleging that the makers of a generic drug should be responsible for the severe harm that the drug caused her. The drug makers contends that it is not responsible, because it is did not actually design the drug.
The woman took a mild pain pill known as sulindac. She was given the medication after her doctor prescribed it to deal with shoulder pain. Little did she know that she would have a severe reaction to the drug. Her skin essentially burned off as a result of the reaction, forcing into her a medically induced coma for months. By the end of the ordeal she was virtually blind and had permanent damage to her esophagus and lungs.
At trial the woman was awarded nearly $25 million, and the decision was upheld by an appeals court. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which is set to hear arguments in the case, centered around the legal issue of whether or not a generic drug manufacturer can be held liable in cases like this.
It is useful for all those who may have suffered a severe adverse reaction to a drug to follow this case to understand if the court will ensure that manufacturers are held liable for the harm caused by the drugs that they produce.
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