Dangerous Drugs: A Look at Legal Liability for Harm from Pharmaceuticals

Posted on: February 5th, 2016 by Gregory Froom, J.D. No Comments

Modern medications have improved the quality of life and extended the lifetimes of millions of people in the United States and around the globe. When pharmaceuticals work like they should, they provide immeasurable benefits.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs have negative consequences that far outweigh their benefits. In addition to dangerous side effects, some medications contain contaminants that can cause serious illnesses or injuries.

Recalls, “black box” warnings and other measures may attempt to address problems caused by harmful pharmaceuticals. However, these often come too late for patients whose health has been harmed by a dangerous drug.

Your health should always be your top priority. One way to ensure you get – and can pay for – the medical treatment you need could involve bringing a legal action against the company responsible for making the dangerous medication that harmed you. Pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars on the products they sell. When those products hurt someone, they should be held responsible for the consequences.

Victims of dangerous drugs may be entitled to monetary compensation by bringing a products liability claim against the medication’s manufacturer and possibly other responsible parties in the development and distribution chain. These cases may be brought individually, as a part of a class-action lawsuit or as a part of a mass tort lawsuit or multi-district litigation.

A Flawed Drug Approval Process

Before a new drug is released onto the market, it is supposed to be subjected to thorough testing to ensure that it is safe, effective and doesn’t cause unreasonably hazardous side effects. Since drug companies have the potential to make large profits if a new product is successful, it is in their interest for the drug to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Despite what many people believe, the FDA does not actually test the vast majority of new medications itself. Instead, the FDA allows pharmaceutical companies themselves to run tests of the medication and then submit the results for approval. Since approval is in the drug companies’ interest, this opens the door to potential problems – including the very real possibility that a dangerous drug will make it into your medicine cabinet.

Examples of potential problems with new drug tests include study samples that are too narrow or too short in duration. The drug manufacturer may downplay results that indicate the drug is less effective or safe, and may even fail to report negative data to the FDA.

The current testing and approval process sets the stage for dangerous side effects and other drug hazards to remain obscured until patients begin taking the medication and suffering negative outcomes. “Off-label” marketing is another issue with medication safety. Some pharmaceutical companies have encouraged doctors to prescribe medications to treat conditions that the drugs are not approved to treat, which can cause serious medical problems.

Even if a drug has been properly approved and marketed, it may still later be found to cause serious harm. In these situations, the FDA may pull the drug from the market, issue a recall, limit its uses or require a “black box” warning about its dangers. Unfortunately, this often doesn’t happen until hundreds or even thousands of patients have been harmed.

What to Do If You Have Been Harmed by a Dangerous Drug

If you have suffered because of a dangerous drug – or you have lost a close relative who died after taking a dangerous medication – you may be entitled to compensation from the parties responsible for developing, manufacturing, marketing and distributing the product.

The first step you should take is to seek medical treatment. Do not stop taking the medication without talking to your doctor first. Be sure to keep the drug’s bottle or container, its packaging and any accompanying documentation, as well as any doses of the medication that you haven’t yet taken. These may be useful when you seek medical treatment. They can also be valuable evidence in a potential lawsuit.

After you have sought treatment for your immediate health concerns, you should then contact an attorney who has experience with dangerous drug claims. Pharmaceutical companies typically put up a strong fight on these claims since their reputation and so much money is at stake. This makes it important to work with an attorney who has the resources and experience to deal with the complex technical issues inherent in a dangerous drug claim.

About Author


Login to post a comment. Don't have an account, yet? It's free!

Post Comment