Post-preemption ruling, drug suits get moving

Good news for judges looking to clear their dockets, not so good news for pharma: Lawsuits long stalled by the debate over legal preemption are coming out of the deep freeze. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that patients can sue drugmakers even for FDA-approved meds, liability cases across the country are moving forward again. Some 250 lawsuits involving more than 10 companies are among the newly resurrected cases, Bloomberg reports.

Examples, per the news service: Glaxo settled two Paxil-causes-suicidal-thoughts claims. Barr Pharmaceuticals is set for trial in an ADHD drug case. Bristol-Myers Squibb faces federal trial in a group of Plavix suits. Et al. In all, the Supreme Court ruling may end up costing pharma billions, a corporate litigator with Jones Day said. "There's no way to quantify it, but the number has as many zeroes in it as attacked Pearl Harbor," Mark Herrmann told Bloomberg.

The Supremes had considered the case of Wyeth v. Levine, which dealt with a Vermont women who lost her arm to a Phenergan IV "push." Wyeth had claimed that the drug's FDA approval and label warnings negated Levine's right to sue; the justices disagreed. The court's ruling, however, left something of a loophole: Suits can't proceed over injury if there's evidence the FDA would have rejected a warning of the potential for that side effect. Drugmakers are trying to squeeze through that gap, but so far aren't having much success. So look for a slew of settlements and trials in the coming months.

- read the Bloomberg piece