Monday, July 02, 2007

A blow to DTC advertising?

Drug companies cannot escape liability for harmful prescriptions in West Virginia by laying all responsibility on doctors, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

Three of five Justices denied a writ that would have kept Marshall Circuit Judge Mark Karl from holding trial against Janssen Pharmaceutica.

They upheld Karl's rejection of a doctrine that would define a doctor as a "learned intermediary" between a drug maker and a patient.

Chief Justice Robin Davis treated the doctrine as a useless 82-year-old relic.

"When the learned intermediary doctrine was developed, direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs was utterly unknown," she wrote. "Pharmaceutical manufacturers never advertised their products to patients, but rather directed all sales efforts at physicians."

She wrote that the law created an exception to the duty of a manufacturer to warn consumers directly of risks.

"For good or ill, that has all changed," Davis wrote. "... we now hold that, under West Virginia products liability law, manufacturers of prescription drugs are subject to the same duty to warn consumers about the risks of their products as other manufacturers."
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