Calif. Supreme Court OKs lawsuit against Wyeth

Chris Rizo Jan. 23, 2009, 2:13am

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-The California Supreme Court decided this week not to hear the case that held pharmaceutical company Wyeth Inc. responsible for injuries to a patient who took a generic version of a drug that the company developed but didn't sell.

The case was brought originally by Elizabeth Conte, who claimed she took the generic version of Wyeth's anti-heartburn drug Reglan for four years to treat her gastroesophageal reflux disease even though it's only approved for use over short periods.

She said the drug caused her to develop tardive dyskinesia, a chronic and incurable condition that causes involuntary muscle movements.

In her lawsuit, she accused Wyeth and there generic drug manufacturers of failing to warn doctors about the drug's possible side effects of Reglan, also known as metoclopramide.

At trial the cases were dismissed. Then, a three-judge appeals court panel revived the claim she had against Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco held that the brand-name manufacturer may be held responsible for failing to warn of generic drugs' potential harmful effects resulting from its long-term use.

The appeals court at the same time tossed Conte's case against the generic manufacturers: Purepac Pharmaceutical Co., Teva Pharmaceutical USA, Inc. and Pliva, Inc.

"We hold that the common law duty to use due care owed by a name-brand prescription drug manufacturer when providing product warnings extends not only to consumers of its own product, but also to those whose doctors foreseeably rely on the name-brand manufacturer's product information when prescribing a medication, even if the prescription is filled with the generic version of the prescribed drug," the appeals court ruled.

The case is Conte vs. Wyeth, S169116.

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