ALM Properties, Inc.
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Pfizer Inc. got some rare good news out of Alabama in June, when the state's high court agreed to revisit its controversial ruling that brand-name drug companies can be held liable for injuries caused by generic versions of their drugs manufactured by third parties.
In a one-paragraph order, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed to hold an oral argument later this year in Weeks v. Wyeth, a personal injury case involving a generic version of gastric reflux drug Reglan made by Pfizer subsidiary Wyeth LLC. The order suggests that the court may be rethinking its earlier ruling that Wyeth can be named as a defendant in the Weeks case, even though the company didn't manufacture the generic Reglan tablets ingested by the plaintiff.
Alabama resident Danny Weeks alleges that he developed gastrointestinal problems after taking generic Reglan tablets manufactured by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Actavis Elizabeth LLC. Weeks and his wife brought a tort case in U.S. district court in Dothan, Alabama, in 2010.
Rather than limiting their complaint to Teva and Actavis, the Weekses also named Wyeth as a defendant. They argued that Wyeth is liable because it misinformed doctors about the potential dangers of Reglan. Soon after, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in PLIVA Inc. v. Mensing in which it shielded generic drug companies from liability in failure-to-warn cases. The PLIVA decision led to Teva and Actavis's dismissal from the Weekses' case, leaving Wyeth as the only deep-pocketed defendant.
At Wyeth's request, the U.S. district court judge overseeing the case asked the Alabama Supreme Court to step in and address Wyeth's potential liability. In January 2013, without holding an oral argument, the court ruled 8 to 1 that Weeks has a viable claim against Wyeth.
Five months later, it apparently had second thoughts. Oral argument is scheduled for September.