Learn more about our policy experts.

Media Contacts

Angela Bradbery, Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7741
c. (202) 503-6768
abradbery@citizen.org, Twitter

Barbara Holzer, Broadcast Manager
w. (202) 588-7716
bholzer@citizen.org

Karilyn Gower, Press Officer
w. (202) 588-7779
kgower@citizen.org

Ben Somberg, Press Officer (regulatory matters)
w. (202) 588-7742
bsomberg@citizen.org, Twitter

Other Important Links

Press Release Database
Citizen Vox blog
Texas Vox blog
Consumer Law and Policy blog
Energy Vox blog
Eyes on Trade blog
Facebook/publiccitizen

Follow us on Twitter

 

March 4, 2009 

Supreme Court Correct to Uphold Right of Injured Patients To Sue Drug Companies

Statement of Brian Wolfman, Director, Litigation Group at Public Citizen*

We are extremely gratified that the U.S. Supreme Court today in Wyeth v. Levine upheld the traditional right of patients harmed by defective and mislabeled drugs to sue drug companies to recover compensation for their injuries.

Drug companies are not perfect, and they sometimes fail to identify and inform doctors and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of problems with their products or their products’ labels. Nor is the FDA perfect. It is overworked and underfunded, and it depends almost entirely on drug companies for information about the safety and effectiveness of drugs.

Perhaps most important, once a drug is marketed to thousands of people, we learn of things that we never knew in the clinical trials for that drug – problems that arise over the years as doctors prescribe and patients take the drug day in and day out.

For all these reasons, legal immunity for drug manufacturers – as called for by the drug companies and the Bush administration – would have been a huge mistake. We believe that the Supreme Court appreciated that. The Supreme Court also appreciated that the civil justice system is consistent with, and indeed helps support, FDA authority to make drugs as safe and as effective as possible. The court emphatically rejected the drug company and Bush administration argument that compensation for patients was an obstacle to the accomplishment of the FDA’s safety objectives.

Finally, and most important, there are real people involved here. The plaintiff in the case, Diana Levine, lost her arm because Wyeth did not take a simple step to warn her doctors of an avoidable risk of gangrene that was well known to the company – that its anti-nausea drug should not have been administered via the IV-push method. Today’s decision is a huge victory for Diana, for patients across the country and for public health.

For more information, visit http://www.citizen.org/documents/levinecertopp.pdf  andhttp://www.citizen.org/documents/preemptiontrialarticle.pdf.

* Brian Wolfman is the director of the Public Citizen Litigation Group and served as one of Diana Levine’s attorneys. He was lead counsel for Ms. Levine at the certiorari stage in the Supreme Court and has represented many plaintiffs in pre-emption cases before the Supreme Court and other courts.

###

Copyright © 2014 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.

 

To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.