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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Negligent Drug Design Case



In Pennsylvania, can drug manufacturers be liable for the negligent design of drugs that injure the public? That's the question that apparently will be decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the case Lance v. Wyeth, which the court recently agreed to hear. The case is important because it may open completely new ground for parties to sue pharmaceutical companies in the Keystone State, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. At present, there are only two causes of action against drug companies in Pennsylvania: negligent failure to warn of a product's risks and strict liability for defects in manufacturing the drug. The Lance case brings a third potential option to the table: liability for negligently designing the drug itself. An appeals court ruled that plaintiffs can argue this theory of liability, and the supreme court agreed to review the case.

Diet Drug Redux at Center of Case

The case stems from the death of Catherine Lance after taking the Wyeth diet drug Redux for four months in 1997. Redux contained the compound Fenfluramine, which was part of the drug Fen-Phen that was previously banned. Both Fen-Phen and Fenfluramine are now illegal to compound, according to court documents. Redux was withdrawn from the market in late 1997. Plaintiffs contend that they can sue because the drug was negligently designed. Pfizer, the present owner of Wyeth, argues that allowing plaintiffs to sue drug companies for negligent drug design is a huge expansion of drug company

Negligence Alleged in Drug-Related Death

Also at issue in the appeal are the plaintiff's claims that Wyeth was negligent because it did not test the drug for harmful side effects, and that Wyeth was negligent for marketing a drug that the Food and Drug Administration ultimately ordered withdrawn because it was too dangerous for anyone to use. Lance died of complications related to primary pulmonary hypertension. Fenfluramine was withdrawn after studies suggested that it was a likely cause of heart disease.

If you or a family member suffered from heart problems after taking Fen-Phen or Redux, you should consult with an attorney experienced in pharmaceutical product liability law in order to protect your rights.