Supremes sing on preemption today

By now, most pharma-watchers are familiar with the story of Diana Levine, the Vermont musician who lost her arm to the Wyeth drug Phenergan. And we all know that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments over Levine's victory in a state-court suit based on the drugmaker's "failure to warn" patients and healthcare providers of Phenergan's potential dangers.

Now, the day has come: The Supremes will quiz Wyeth's and Levine's lawyers today as they gather the legal data they need to decide the case. Drugmakers aren't the only companies watching the High Court carefully, either. Companies of all stripes see this case as a precedent-setter for state torts. So do lawmakers who oppose the idea that a federal agency's approval could pre-empt a consumer's right to sue.

If a Washington Post editorial offers any insight into reasoned opinions on this case, it will be Congress that will need to act to withdraw that right. Lawmakers know tort lawsuits are common, and yet they haven't written a law that would shield companies like Wyeth from those suits. "[T]he justices should respect that determination," the Post writes.

Then again, plenty of observers have tried to read the tea leaves on this case, and they've issued opinions that are all over the map. So we invite you to do your own prognostications. Everything you need to know is in one SCOTUS primer on the case. Take it under advisement... and stay tuned for the post-arguments analysis.

- see the Post editorial
- read the SCOTUS primer

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