NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 27, 2006

The New York Times examined how several "widely used" medications have become the focus of the "next wave" of lawsuits filed by patients over allegations that pharmaceutical companies concealed severe side effects or improperly marketed the treatments.

The medications -- which have combined annual sales of $7 billion -- include the antipsychotic Seroquel, manufactured by AstraZeneca; the birth control patch Ortho-Evra, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson; the hormone replacement therapy Prempro, manufactured by Wyeth; and the osteoporosis treatment Fosamax, manufactured by Merck.

  • The suits are keeping the pharmaceutical industry on the defensive at a time when drug makers are trying to rebuild their image amid public anger over prescription drug prices and the fact that some companies did not disclose negative information from clinical trials during the 1990s.
  • Lawsuits over prescription drugs carry perhaps the highest stakes of all product liability litigation, lawyers on each side say. Plaintiffs' lawyers may spend years and millions of dollars to prepare for a single trial, but a victory can come with a verdict of $10 million or more.
  • To gain leverage against the companies, trial lawyers aim to build "inventories" of hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs that they can settle simultaneously for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Peter Bicks, a defense attorney at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe says, "This really is like cattle moving around a pasture, grazing on the greenest parts of the grass. The greenest part of the pasture now appears to be, in the post-Vioxx era, drugs."

Source: Alex Berenson, "In the Money, and in Court," April 22, 2006.

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