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Los Angeles Times Examines 'Explosion' Of Rx Drug Product Liability Lawsuits

The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday examined the recent "explosion" of product liability lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies. According to an analysis conducted for the Times by the research firm Thomson West, plaintiffs have filed more than 71,000 product liability lawsuits related to prescription drugs in federal courts since 2001, and they have filed "untold others" in state courts. Lawsuits related to prescription drugs currently account for more than one-third of all product liability lawsuits filed in federal courts, the analysis finds. Legal experts attribute the increase in product liability lawsuits related to prescription drugs in part to "fundamental changes in the pharmaceutical industry's business practices intended to boost sales and profits," the Times reports. Since the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies have increased sales through direct-to-consumer advertisements. "This business model begot the era of blockbuster drugs" but also established the "potential for blockbuster liability," according to the Times. For example, more than 20 million patients used the COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx before Merck withdrew the medication from the market in September 2004 over safety concerns. More than 23,500 plaintiffs nationwide allege that Vioxx injured them or their family members (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 6/27).

Reprinted with permission from http://www.kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.