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Product liability for pharmaceutical drug companies

Products liability lawsuits often occur when a consumer is injured by a defective product. One of the most common products that cause injury is drugs and medicines. It is important to understand that not all injuries resulting from use of a drug or medicine can form the basis of a products liability lawsuit, however. The Food and Drug Administration requires that all pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers adequately test drugs, according to industry standards, before releasing them onto the market for consumer use. Satisfying this obligation and legal duty is not sufficient to avoid all potential liability, however. If the drug proves to be defective, a consumer injured by the drug may win a products liability lawsuit against the drug manufacturer even if the drug complied with FDA standards.

One of the key duties that relates to products liability is the duty to warn. Both the law and consumers expect drug companies and manufacturers to warn consumers of all known possible side effects. This duty includes continuing to update those medical professionals who prescribe the drugs in relation to potential adverse side effects that may be discovered after the drug is initially released. If the drug manufacturer intentionally does not disclose known side effects, issues an insufficient warning, or does not keep abreast of developments in order to warn of later discovered side effects, liability may attach.

Although pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers do have considerable liability in many cases, there are other situations in which the manufacturers will not be held liable for the injuries that result from use of a drug. One example of a situation in which a drug manufacturer will not be held liable is the case of unavoidable unsafe products. This category of drugs includes those that cannot be made completely safe regardless of the care taken with their manufacture. These drugs may have some benefit to the user--which is why they are prescribed and used--despite the serious and known risk.

Drug manufacturers are also generally not held liable for injuries to unusually susceptible customers. This means that if a reaction or injury occurs because the user is unusually susceptible, a drug company might not be held liable for the injury. What this does not mean, however, is that the fact that a reaction is rare absolves the manufacturer from liability. It also does not mean that a drug manufacturer has no duty to warn of rare reactions or of reactions that occur in unusually susceptible people.

Source: FindLaw, "Pharmaceutical Drug Liability," last accessed Dec.28, 2014

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