In an op-ed Houston Chronicle (3/7) Thomas McGarity, a professor of law at The University of Texas at Austin, wrote, “The Supreme Court last week ended an acrimonious battle between large pharmaceutical companies and patients injured by inadequately labeled prescription drugs.” The ruling “is also a rare win for consumers in the broader ‘pre-emption war’ that has been raging in Congress and the courts over whether federal regulatory agencies should trump local juries.” Now the “war continues in other areas where federal agencies regulate potentially dangerous products, set standards for airline, railroad and motor carrier safety, and attempt to protect consumers from unscrupulous banks and credit reporting agencies.” However, “the Supreme Court’s well-reasoned opinion should make federal bureaucracies think twice before concluding that they are the only game in town.”
The Insurance Journal AP(3/9) reports, “A Supreme Court ruling this week that federal approval of a drug is no protection from lawsuits in state courts could make drugmakers more cautious about safety issues and may lead them to halt development of some medicines and even pull others off the market.”
Justice Thomas’ concurrence in Wyeth seen as liberal. The Los Angeles Times (3/9, Savage) reports, “The Supreme Court opinion that drew the most praise last week from a proudly ‘progressive’ constitutional law group was written by perhaps the court’s staunchest conservative, Justice Clarence Thomas.” He would “have gone further than the court’s liberals in a decision that allowed injured patients to sue drug makers” according to the “24-page concurrence” where “he said the court should have declared that judges have no authority to void state consumer-protection laws based on ‘agency musings’ from Washington.”
WSJournal: Wyeth ruling “puts drag on innovation.” The Wall Street Journal (3/9) editorializes that after the ruling in Wyeth, “the simple lesson businesspeople took was that the drug maker could not have done anything to avoid being sued.” The Journal says, “More broadly, this case is Exhibit A for how our legalistic culture puts a drag on the innovation, transparency and risk-taking that our new era champions.” Philip Howard said, “The idea of organizing how to do things…grew out of the need to set up assembly lines and to regulate complex systems and industries. But ‘today we assume unquestioningly that any activity will be more effective if we detail in advance how to get the job done.'” Concluding, the authors say, “Popular acceptance that one era has passed and another has begun is not enough to establish a clear demarcation. But as the example of the earlier battle against the Luddites shows, it’s at least a start.”
Wyeth seen as stifling to drug innovation. In an op-ed for the Washington Times (3/9) Jim Copland, director of the Center for Legal Policy and Paul Howard, director of the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, write, “Pharmaceutical manufacturers in America now face a…hazardous path…after the Supreme Court ruled yesterday in Wyeth v. Levine that state juries can, in essence, override the Food and Drug Administration’s considered safety judgments.” They say that “a Congress in the grip of trial lawyers is unlikely to act, so the Levine decision is likely to have an adverse effect on drug innovation.” They conclude that since they believe Congress will not enact any programs to remedy the problems they see with the ruling, that “manufacturers, consumers and the broader public health will…suffer.”
From the American Association for Justice news release.