Sorrell gets involved in high-profile prescription drug case

John O'Brien Aug. 15, 2008, 1:43pm

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell wants the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a $6.7 million decision against prescription drug maker Wyeth.

Sorrell said Thursday the high court should side with the 2006 decision by his state's Supreme Court that held Wyeth responsible for the amputation of part of Diana Levine's arm. Sorrell said the decision will affirm consumers' rights to sue drug companies.

Levine's supporters say federal law (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the method in which the drug Phenergan was used) does not preempt state failure-to-warn laws.

"The attempt by the drug industry and the current administration to knock out these types of lawsuits is shameful," said Sorrell, who filed an amicus brief with the court. Forty-six states joined in the brief.

"The FDA should be supporting Ms. Levine -- not the drug companies."

Members of Congress -- like Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy -- have already started supporting Levine's case. She was injected with Phenergan in 2000 to help with migraine-related nausea.

Instead, the injection severely damaged an artery and part of her arm had to be amputated. Levine was a professional musician.

Levine sued, claiming Wyeth did not adequately warn of the dangers of the type of procedure she underwent. Wyeth's labeling, however, was adequate enough for the FDA.

The case will be argued Nov. 3.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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