Medicines and drugs are designed to make people feel better. But when they are defective, the same medications can lead to deadly consequences. The world still remembers the horror of “Thalidomide Babies,” in the early 1960s when babies were born without arms or legs. The over-the-counter drug thalidomide, which was first marketed in West Germany in 1957 as the “only non-barbiturate sedative” of the time. It was largely used by pregnant women to deal with morning sickness. The makers claimed that the drug is ‘completely safe’ even for mother and child. Unfortunately, the drug lead to a severe birth defect crisis called phocomelia to babies born to mothers using thalidomide during the early days of their pregnancy.
Even recently, Pfizer’s antidepressant med Zoloft was linked with birth defect. Although the company claimed that Zoloft is safe and was not known to cause congenital heart problems, one of their own scientists recommended changes to its label warnings. Pfizer is fighting over 1,000 lawsuits against Zoloft, stating that the antidepressant drug triggered heart abnormalities to new-born babies whose mothers used it during pregnancy.
There are many such stories where medications, instead of making our life better and alleviate pain and illness, caused further harm and injury. If this has been a case with you or someone you know, you too can pursue product liability lawsuits and obtain compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering. When you are seeking damages for defective drugs, you are not fighting only for yourself but also ensure that others don’t suffer a similar fate in the future.
Dangerous & Defective Drugs – The Role of FDA
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for administering the safety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs and medical devices. It not only gives approval to new medications before they hit the market, FDA is also monitors drugs that are currently available on the market. The agency sometimes issue recalls, especially when unforeseen problems arises once the medication/medical device is in widespread use. According to a study published in ABC News, FDA issued around 1,734 drug recalls between 2004 and 2011.
There were 91 Class I recalls during this period, indicating those drugs could have caused serious harm to the patients, including death. Out of these 91 Class I recalls, 34 percent were known to have affected over 100,000 units of a drug. Besides, 64 percent of the recalled drugs between 2004 and 2011 had been already distributed nationwide. The study also reveals that 40 percent of these recalled drugs were contaminated, whereas 25 percent of them were linked with wrong doses and/or release mechanisms. The remaining drug recalls were due to mislabelling or product mix-ups.
Although in most cases FDA responds fast enough to minimize harm, the agency unfortunately learns of a dangerous or defective drug only after patients suffer injury or damage. While recalls are usually voluntary, they often come late as the pharmaceutical industry uses a self-reporting system to report the adverse side effects of a prescription or over-the-counter drug to the FDA. These reports are issued by the drug manufacturers.
When Can You Seek Damage for Defective Drugs?
Defective drugs fall under product liability claims. And just like any product liability lawsuit, manufacturers and sellers are liable for ensuring the safety of their dangerous and/or defective drugs. There are several reasons why a drug is termed as defective or dangerous, these include:
• Manufacturing and design problems
• Improper marketing
• Insufficient or inadequate safety warnings
• Failure to proper clinical trial testing
• Mislabeled medications
To file a defective drug lawsuit you need to first prove that the pharmaceutical company has negligently or knowingly allowed the dangerous/defective drugs to enter the market, which lead to the injuries. In addition, you can also sue the doctor or the clinic/hospital for prescribing the defective drug to you. If you fail to reach a settlement with the pharmaceutical company and other defendants, you can go for a trail to receive compensation for injuries and damages you have sustained. The financial compensation include:
• Pain and suffering
• Past and future medical bills and expenses
• Punitive damages
• Lost wages
You can either file the claim individually or join a class-action lawsuit as defective drugs usually affect a large number of people. While joining a class action has various advantages, those who have sustained serious harm should pursue an individual lawsuit especially if your case has special circumstances or the nature of your injuries are different from others.
Determining Your Claim
If you suspect you have a case of defective drug injury, the first thing you need to do is talk to your doctor and seek medical attention immediately. This will help you prevent further damage. Once you have obtained proper medical attention and if the doctor and other medical reports confirm that the injury was due to the defective drug, contact a defective drugs attorney right away and verify your claims against the pharmaceutical company and/or other defendants.
Also note that defective drugs claims differ from medical error or malpractice claims where a doctor or any other medical professionals fail to meet the required standard of care and/or have administered the wrong medication or dosage. You can file a defective drugs lawsuit only if the injury was the result of a pharmaceutical drug you have used.
Statute of Limitations
Just like any other product liability case, you have a time limitation to file your defective drugs lawsuit. This is called the statute of limitations and this time limit varies from state to state. For example, you have 4 years’ time in Florida to file a defective drugs lawsuit but if you are talking to a CT defective drugs lawyer, he/she will advise you to file the claim within 2 years.
There are, however, certain exceptions to allow you to file a lawsuit even if the statute of limitations has run out. Some common circumstances include:
• Physical or mental incapacitation of the plaintiff
• The injury wasn’t discovered until a later time
• The plaintiff was under the age of 18 and his/her residing jurisdiction allows one to file a lawsuit only after their 18th birthday
Defective drugs claims usually involve complex and sophisticated medical and legal knowledge. So if you want to effectively represent yourself, it is recommended to hire a lawyer who not just specializes in product liability claims but in drug cases as well. An experienced drug lawyer will make it easier for you to win the claim.