Drug Industry Wins In 2 Supreme Court Rulings

Jun 24, 2011
Originally published on June 24, 2011 7:01 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

NINA TOTENBERG: The decision could affect millions of Americans since 75 percent of all drug sales are generic. In a blistering dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the decision absurd, and said that when consumers are injured because of inadequate drug warnings, their ability to seek restitution will depend entirely on whether the pharmacist who filled their prescription filled it with a generic - you have no recourse, or a brand name - you can sue.

NYU: generics, free from lawsuits, would become even cheaper. But, as NYU law professor Katherine Sharkey puts it, for people who have good insurance or personal resources...

KATHERINE SHARKEY: ...they now have an incentive to have the brand name drug as opposed to the generic. Because with the brand name drug, they are also getting this added liability protection. They can bring the tort lawsuits forward, where as with the generic, they cannot.

TOTENBERG: Physicians groups were infuriated by the court's ruling. Dr. Norman Ward, vice president of the Vermont Medical Society, said the court seemed oblivious to the way drug companies and their teams of salesmen work, and impervious to the states effort to bring down medical costs.

NORMAN WARD: With health care costs so out of control, to promote a playing field that arms those wishing to promote specific higher cost brand name drugs, that may or may not have more efficacy than generic alternatives, seems unwise.

TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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