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Reglan generic cases turn for plaintiffs

Some good news came for plaintiffs this week in generic Reglan (metoclopramide) cases. The California Court of Appeal ruled that two types of drug injury claims can move forward. The court ruled that generic drug makers are responsible for “failure to suspend sales” of metoclopramide, and that Reglan’s brand name maker, Wyeth (now part of Pfizer), is responsible for failing to accurately update the label with the drug’s actual risks.

Those injured by generic Reglan have been in need of some good news for quite a while. Metoclopramide cases have been sitting in a kind of legal limbo ever since the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 (Pliva v. Mensing) in the summer of 2011 (right along party lines, though Supreme court members should ideally be politically pure) to essentially grant generic drug makers immunity from state tort lawsuits.  Nevertheless, plaintiffs’ lawyers have continued to argue in state courts in California and Pennsylvania that generic manufacturers should be held accountable for not suspending sales of metoclopramide despite their knowledge of its causing tardive dyskinesia in as many as one out of five people who take it for three months or more.  Lawyers have also continued to argue before state courts that the brand maker of the drug – Wyeth Pharmaceuticals – should also be held accountable for failing to update the label to indicate a user’s actual risk. Both those arguments were accepted Sept. 26 by Judge Kramer in the California Court of Appeal.

The court summarily denied both the Generics’ and Morton Grove’s (Wyeth’s) writ petitions, and the orders denying the petitions are immediate and final. This is good news for metoclopramide victims because Judge Kramer’s decision against the generics should stand for the duration of the case at the trial court level, absent any successful effort to have the California Supreme Court address the matter or any later change in law that would require Judge Kramer to reconsider his decision.  The generics still retain their right to appeal the decisions, but any appeal would have to come at the conclusion of the trial court proceedings.  The generics have 10 days to petition the California Supreme Court for review, but the Supreme Court is unlikely to take any action at this point.

“It shows that justice is still possible for victims of metoclopramide,” said Houston attorney David Matthews. “There’s an awful long way to go, but at least this decision restores some faith in the courts and in humanity to do the right thing. Unfortunately, so much of this is political, and that’s a shame, because people are hurt, through no fault of their own, and they deserve compensation from the companies that failed them.”

In other metoclopramide news, a similar hearing is scheduled for the Pennsylvania Court of Appeal on Oct. 31 to determine if metoclopramide claims can also move forward in that state, in spite of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 decision to grant generic drug makers immunity. We will also report the results of that hearing as soon as it occurs.

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