US Supreme Court rejects federal pre-emption of state law in VT drug case

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In a 6 to 3 vote, the Supreme Court Wednesday held that federal law does not pre-empt the right of patients to sue in state court over a federally regulated medication. The case involved a VT musician who lost her arm after Phenergan, an anti-nausea drug, was administered by “IV push” rather than “IV drip”. Both Wyeth, maker of Phenergan, and the FDA were aware of the dangers of administering the drug through IV push, but the FDA did not prohibit the practice and Wyeth never sought prohibition on the label. A VT jury awarded Ms. Levine $6 million. Wyeth argued that because the drug is regulated and was approved by the FDA, that Levine had no right to sue in state court. The Supreme Court disagreed in this case closely watched by the pharmaceutical industry. For more background on the case click here and here.
Ellen Andrews