Saturday, December 4, 2010

Is Congress going to abolish the learned intermediary doctrine?

In a recent interview, I argued that the time has come to take a careful look at the concept of the so-called "learned intermediary doctrine" in prescription drug cases. I am clearly not alone on this. At least two states have abolished the doctrine and Professor David Owen, author of leading textbooks and hornbooks on Products Liability has argued that "[i]n this day of mass merchandising of prescription drugs in the media, where drug manufacturers have chosen to jump over doctors and market their drugs directly to patients, it seems that manufacturers logically should have a corresponding duty to supply warnings of dangers directly to patients, too." (See here). Not surprisingly, those who favor defendants in these types of cases, disagree. That's why the Drug and Device Blog calls a bill to abolish the learned intermediary doctrine "something completly stupid." For their arguments in favor of the doctrine you can go here and here. Apparently, Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) has introduced a bill (H.R. 6421) that seeks to abolish the learned intermediary rule. In summary, the bill says that "[i]t shall not be a defense to any tort claim in any court in the United States that a manufacture of a product has fulfilled that manufacturer's duty of care when the manufacturer provides all of the necessary information to a learned intermediary who then interacts with the consumer of the product." Unfortunately, the bill is probably not going anywhere. I would be incredibly surprised if it did - not only because of Congress is in a "lame duck session" but because of the powerful lobbying by the pharmeceutical industry.

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