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There are hundreds of prescription medicines available that greatly improve patients’ quality of life. These drugs are supposed to go through extensive testing before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants approval to the manufacturer to market the drug.

Unfortunately, too many of these medications end up causing harm to the people who take them even after they have been approved. When a victim is injured because of a defective drug, they are often able to pursue a claim against the drug company for damages. But who is liable when it is the generic version of the drug that causes harm?

Generic versions of medications make up approximately 90 percent of the prescriptions filled in this country. This is usually because the generic version is more affordable than the brand-name version. However, when a patient uses the generic version of what turns out to be a defective drug, they have not been able to file a lawsuit for damages against any company because of the process the government has in place.

They cannot file against the generic drug company because it wasn’t that company that developed the product. And because they did not use the brand-name version of the drug, they have not been able to file suit against that manufacturer, either. But recent court decisions may be changing all that.

All drug manufacturers are required to place warning labels on their products, warning users of any possible dangers or side effects the drug may cause. Generic drug manufacturers are required to use the same labeling as the brand-name manufacturer. Under federal law, only the brand-name company is allowed to make any changes to labeling. The generic drug company is not allowed under any circumstances to change labels or add warnings on their own.

However, a recent ruling by a Massachusetts court, combined with similar rulings in California, Illinois, and Vermont courtrooms, could allow victims to sue the brand-name manufacturer for injuries sustained using the generic version under the innovator liability doctrine. This doctrine allows the developer of a product to be held liable even when that product is sold by a generic company not related to the developer at all.

Massachusetts Case

In the most recent case, a Massachusetts man suffered serious side effects from the generic version of the drug finasteride. The drug company Merck manufacturers the brand-name version. In his lawsuit, the victim alleged that Merck failed to place warnings of these potential side effects on finasteride sold in the United States. The company did place warnings on finasteride sold in other countries based on studies and reports. Although the lower courts dismissed the victim’s claim, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed the rulings, writing in its decision:

“Where a brand-name drug manufacturer provides an inadequate warning for its own product, it knows or should know that it puts at risk not only the users of its own product, but also the users of the generic product.”

Contact a Va. Personal Injury Attorney

Have you or a loved one suffered an injury or serious illness caused by a dangerous drug? Contact a seasoned Virginia dangerous drug attorney to discuss what legal options you may have against the drug company and any other parties that may be responsible. The legal team at Shapiro & Appleton have been successfully advocating clients for more than thirty years and will use all available resources to get you the outcome you deserve.

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