Arizona Court Addresses Desperate Need — Can Drug Companies Be Sued For Fraud?

The Arizona Court of Appeals has taken huge strides this week with an unprecedented ruling on the question of whether or not it is legal for drug companies to be sued for fraud. Now, at least in the state of Arizona, pharmaceutical companies can be sued for consumer fraud.

In July of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling which protects drug companies from being sued for fraud, accidental death, mislabeling, and side effects. Due to this decision, 80 percent of prescription medications are exempt from lawsuits.

According to Whiteout Press, a previous lower court ruling in favor of a patient who had contracted a horrific side effect from prescription medication was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. The woman sued for fraud because she contracted toxic epidermal necrolysis, or Lyell’s Syndrome, which was not on the list of potential side effects. Johns Hopkins Medicine defines the disease as life-threatening.

“Toxic epidermal necrolysis is a life-threatening skin disorder characterized by a blistering and peeling of the skin. This disorder can be caused by a drug reaction — frequently antibiotics or anti-convulsives.”

The woman who sued did survive the disease, but a large portion of her body was permanently disfigured. The U.S. Supreme Court found that the corporation could not be sued because its drugs were exempt from lawsuits.

Yesterday, Judge John Gemmill found that, due to the way drug companies are now marketing their wares, they can be sued for consumer fraud.

“Prescription medication is often advertised and sold to consumers in a manner similar to other consumer goods.”

In a report by the Arizona Daily Star, the reason that corporations could not previously be sued for fraud is because the obligation of the drug companies was to inform the doctors, not the patients, of the complete list of side effects and possible complications. However, now that medications are marketed to consumers, patients can be misled by fraudulent information. Therefore, Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act now applies.

“Consumers are regularly presented with advertisements for medications to treat a variety of symptoms, prompting them to ask, encourage, and even pressure their medical providers to prescribe these brand-name medications.”

Judge Gemmill goes on the explain that now, with drugs being advertised on TV, and so much information, whether right or wrong, on the internet, it is no longer safe and effective for physicians to be primarily informed on the risks. The patients now must be made aware of all risks.

The decision to allow drug manufacturers to be sued for fraud is monumental. In a world where people are often sued for silly reasons, it is nice to know that one state, at least, recognizes the need for victims of fraud to fight back.

[Image via Mercola]