What is Pharmaceutical Drug Liability?

drug administration errors

When a drug or medicine causes injury, the drug manufacturer may find itself involved in a product liability suit. Product liability in relation to pharmaceutical drug liability is when a drug manufacturer or someone within the supply chain such as physician is held liable for providing a defective drug (product) to a consumer. There are many factors involved in a successful products liability claim which is why they are best handled by a products liability attorney.

What is the duty of a drug manufacturer?

Just as a medical care provider has a duty of care to their patients, drug manufacturers have a duty to appropriately test the drugs and medicines they create before releasing them into the market. Standard testing criteria is provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but even after the FDA has licensed a drug for use by the public, the manufacturer still carries liability for the injured plaintiff if the drug proves to be otherwise defective.

Drug manufacturers also have a duty to warn physicians, pharmacists and end users (through labeling) about any known side effects.

Determining pharmaceutical drug liability

Apart from over-the-counter drugs that do not require a prescription or discussion with a pharmacist, it can be tricky to determine liability for a pharmaceutical drug injury. The reason is because there is typically always a “learned intermediary” between the manufacture and the end user. The learned intermediary may be a physician who prescribes the drug, a nurse or physician’s assistant who provides instructions on how to take the drug or a pharmacist who fills and explains how to use the prescription. In most cases, an experienced product liability lawyer will be needed to help the plaintiff identify fault for their injuries.

Factors affecting pharmaceutical liability cases

Unavoidably unsafe products

Some prescription drugs are considered “unavoidably unsafe” products. This means that no matter how well or carefully they are manufactured, they can never be made 100 percent safe. For example, these drugs may come with potentially harmful side effects, but are still prescribed because of their overall benefit to the user. If drugs in this category are found to have been manufactured properly and carry appropriate safety warnings then they cannot typically be used in a successful products liability lawsuit.

Unknown/known side effects

While drug manufacturers have a duty to warn about known side effects, they are not obligated to warn about unknown side effects or dangers. There is no duty to warn about possible reactions in unusually vulnerable users either but the fact that a possible known reaction is rare does not absolve the manufacturer of its duty to warn nor does it mean the patient experiencing the reaction is unusually vulnerable. Manufacturers typically work to eliminate their legal liability for the duty to warn by providing all relevant information to the patient’s prescribing physician or to the pharmacist. Manufacturers are expected to stay on top of new studies or information about their products and take reasonable steps to update medical professionals on newly discovered side effects or possible adverse reactions.

Time lapse issues

There are situations where drug-related injuries do not become apparent until years after the drugs were taken. For example, when a drug is taken during pregnancy evidence of an injury may not be obvious until the child is several years old. In these cases, it can be challenging to identify the manufacturer or supplier because evidence is no longer available. In such cases, products liability lawyers may be able to identify an appropriate theory to shift the burden to the potential defendants or to allocate the damages among a number of potentially liable manufacturers.

Product liability law is complicated. If you or a loved one was seriously injured by a prescription drug through no fault of your own, contact a products liability attorney as soon as possible.

The Seattle personal injury attorneys at Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC have years of experience representing families harmed by medical malpractice. We seek justice for patients who have been harmed by preventable medical errors including birth injuries, hospital-acquired infections and wrongful death in Seattle and across Washington State. There are no fees or expenses to file a personal injury case as we only receive payment if we recover damages on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims come with a Statute of Limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time frame of the injury.

Call us now at (206) 752-4366 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our compassionate, experienced attorneys.