Big Pharma chalks up victory in Arizona Supreme Court over Rx safety warnings

Big Pharma can celebrate a bright point. Arizona's top court ruled that drugmakers don't have an obligation to warn patients directly about safety risks of their meds. Raising those warnings with doctors is enough, the court determined.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit Valeant ($VRX) inherited after its 2012 acquisition of Medicis Pharmaceutical. Teenage plaintiff Amanda Watts sued Medicis in 2012 after using the company's acne drug Solodyn, claiming that she developed drug-induced lupus and autoimmune hepatitis. The company failed to warn her about all the drug's risks, the suit contended.

But the Arizona Supreme Court didn't see things in quite the same light. The court said that a drugmaker "fulfills its duty to warn a consumer of the risks associated with a prescription drug when it provides a full, adequate warning to the consumer's medical provider," Lori Voepel, a partner at Phoenix-based Jones, Skelton & Hochuli, the firm that represented Medicis, told The Phoenix Business Journal.

The decision falls in line with the way other states require pharma companies to warn patients about potential side effects, the PBJ points out, and deals some cards in drugmakers' favor in an increasingly stringent market. A positive opinion "gives prescription drug manufacturers and physicians certainty and clarity regarding what their roles are" in Arizona regarding prescription meds, Voepel told the newspaper.

The ruling also takes a little heat off Valeant, which has been struggling with pricing pushback. Life was perhaps simpler for the company back in 2012, when it shelled out $2.6 billion for Medicis and its portfolio of dermatology meds, including Solodyn, Botox competitor Dysport and wrinkle-filler Restylane. Valeant followed that move by axing more than 300 jobs at Medicis, delivering on CEO J. Michael Pearson's plan to cut costs. The company still maintains a Medicis subsidiary in New Jersey.

- read the PBJ story