Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Drugs & Biotech
Joas v. Zimmer, Inc.
Joas underwent knee replacement at a Wisconsin hospital and received a Zimmer NexGen Flex implant. Within a few years, he began experiencing pain in his new knee. X-rays confirmed that the implant had loosened and required a surgical fix. Joas brought multiple claims against Zimmer. His case was transferred to a multidistrict litigation, where it was treated as a bellwether case. Applying Wisconsin law, the presiding judge granted Zimmer summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, declining to reinstate a single claim based on a theory of inadequate warning. The court predicted that the Wisconsin Supreme Court would follow the majority of states and adopt the “learned intermediary” doctrine, which holds that the manufacturer of a medical device has no duty to warn the patient as long as it provides adequate warnings to the physician. In addition, Joas has not identified any danger that Zimmer should have warned him about. Joas has no evidence to support causation. Joas did not select the NexGen Flex implant, so the information would not have caused him to change his behavior. His doctor selected the product, making his decision based on his own past experience, not on any marketing materials or information provided by Zimmer. View "Joas v. Zimmer, Inc." on Justia Law
Guilbeau v. Pfizer Inc.
Testosterone replacement drugs have been FDA-approved prescription drugs for more than 60 years. In recent years, manufacturers have found a new market: older men. Numerous lawsuits were filed against manufacturers alleging that the drugs increase health risks. Cases alleging that the manufacturers failed to warn doctors and patients adequately about the risks, citing state product-liability laws, were consolidated for pretrial proceedings. The district court granted a motion to dismiss brought by Depo-T’s manufacturer, finding the failure-to-warn claims preempted by federal law. The court stated that DepoT’s manufacturers could not change their drug labels to add warnings because FDA regulations prohibit them from “making a unilateral labeling change.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. In Wyeth v. Levine, the Supreme Court held that claims against a manufacturer of a brand-name prescription drug for failure to warn adequately of the drug’s dangers were not preempted by federal law.; in PLIVA v. Mensing, the Court held that such failure-to-warn claims against manufacturers of generic drugs are preempted. The Court cited the different regulatory requirements and processes for approving and labeling prescription drugs. Depo-T “does not fit neatly into the colloquial dichotomy between brand-name and generic drugs” so the Seventh Circuit focused on whether the FDA approved public sale of its drugs through the “new drug application” or through the “abbreviated new drug application” (ANDA) and stated that the FDA-approved label defines an ANDA holder’s duty of sameness and the lines of federal preemption. View "Guilbeau v. Pfizer Inc." on Justia Law
Sidney Hillman Health Center of Rochester v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc.
The FDA approved Depakote for treating seizures, migraine headaches, and conditions associated with bipolar disorder. Physicians may prescribe it for other "off-label" uses, but a drug’s manufacturer can promote it only as suitable for uses the FDA has found safe and effective. Abbott, which makes Depakote, encouraged intermediaries to promote Depakote’s off-label uses for ADHD, schizophrenia, and dementia, hiding its own involvement. Abbott pleaded guilty to unlawful promotion and paid $1.6 billion to resolve the criminal case and False Claims Act suits, 31 U.S.C. 3729–33. Welfare-benefit plans that paid for Depakote’s off-label uses sought treble damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1964, for a class comprising all third-party payors. Following a remand, the court dismissed the suit on the ground that the plaintiffs could not show proximate causation, a RICO requirement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the Payors are not the most directly, injured parties. Patients suffer if they take Depakote when it is useless and may be harmful and costly. Physicians also may lose, though less directly. Because some off-label uses of Depakote may be beneficial to patients, it is hard to treat all off-label prescriptions as injurious to the Payors; if they did not pay for Depakote they would have paid for some other drug. In addition, some physicians were apt to write off-label prescriptions whether or not Abbott promoted such uses. Calculation of damages would require determining the volume of off-label prescriptions that would have occurred absent Abbott’s unlawful activity. View "Sidney Hillman Health Center of Rochester v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law
Eike v. Allergan, Inc.
The district court certified eight classes, consisting of persons in Illinois and Missouri who take eye drops manufactured by six pharmaceutical companies for treatment of glaucoma. Plaintiffs claimed that the defendants’ eye drops are unnecessarily large and wasteful, in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, 815 ILCS 505/1, and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. 407.010, so that the price of the eye drops is excessive and that the large eye drops have a higher risk of side effects. There was no claim that members of the class have experienced side effects or have been harmed because they ran out of them early. The Seventh Circuit vacated with instructions to dismiss. The court noted possible legitimate reasons for large drops, the absence of any misrepresentation or collusion, and that defendants’ large eye drops have been approved by the FDA for safety and efficacy. “You cannot sue a company and argue only ‘it could do better by us,’” nor can one bring a suit in federal court without pleading that one has been injured. The plaintiffs allege only “disappointment.” View "Eike v. Allergan, Inc." on Justia Law
Wagner v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.
Wagner, a licensed attorney proceeding pro se, took both brand‐name and generic hormone therapy drugs as prescribed by her gynecologist to treat her post‐menopausal endometrial hyperplasia. After taking the drugs, Wagner developed breast cancer. Wagner sued multiple pharmaceutical companies that designed, manufactured, promoted and distributed the drugs she took, asserting Wisconsin state law tort claims, all based upon allegations that the defendants sold dangerous products and failed to adequately warn of their risks. Defendants moved for Rule 12(c) judgment on the pleadings, arguing that federal law preempted Wagner’s claims. In response, Wagner asserted, for the first time, that the defendants delayed updating their generic brand labels to match the updated, stricter labels on the brand‐name drug. The district judge granted the motion, finding that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, 21 U.S.C. 301, preempted the state law claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed: Wagner’s complaint lacked the requisite factual allegations to support a failure to update theory and federal law preempts her Wisconsin state‐law claims. View "Wagner v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. H.D. Smith, LLC.
West Virginia sued pharmaceutical distributors, seeking to hold them liable for contributing to the state’s epidemic of prescription drug abuse. The complaint alleged that certain pharmacies, “pill mills,” knowingly provided citizens with hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and other prescription drugs, not for legitimate uses, but to fuel and profit from their addictions. The state contends that those pharmacies ordered drugs in quantities so large that the distributors should have known they would be used for illicit purposes. H.D. Smith, a distributor, had a general commercial liability insurance policy issued by Cincinnati Insurance. The policy covered damages that H.D. Smith became legally obligated to pay “because of bodily injury,” defined as “bodily injury, sickness or disease sustained by a person, including death.” “[D]amages because of bodily injury” include “damages claimed by any person or organization for care, loss of services or death resulting at any time from the bodily injury.” Cincinnati refused to defend the suit and obtained a declaratory judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed summary judgment. The plain language of the policy requires Cincinnati to defend a suit brought by a plaintiff to recover money paid to care for someone who was injured by H.D. Smith. West Virginia’s suit fits that description. View "Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. H.D. Smith, LLC." on Justia Law
United States v. Dessart
At his Reedsville, Wisconsin home, Dessart manufactured and sold products containing the active chemical ingredients in numerous prescription drugs, offering them for sale online with the disclaimer “for research only” to evade FDA oversight. After receiving an anonymous tip, investigating Dessart’s website, and intercepting three packages connected to Dessart’s operation, agents obtained a warrant, conducted a controlled delivery, and search Dessart’s house. He was convicted of violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 331, with the intent to defraud or mislead the agency, which converted his violations from strict-liability misdemeanors into specific-intent felonies. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the FDA’s investigator lied in procuring a search warrant and the warrant otherwise lacked probable cause; the government’s evidence was insufficient to prove that he acted with deceptive intent; and the district court erred in instructing the jury on the definition of “prescription drug.” The evidence of Dessart’s intent to mislead the FDA was ample and easily sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. View "United States v. Dessart" on Justia Law
Sidney Hillman Health Ctr. of Rochester v. Abbott Labs., Inc.
From 1998 to 2012 Abbott marketed the anticonvulsant medication Depakote for applications that had not been FDA-approved (off-label uses). Physicians may prescribe drugs for off-label uses, but pharmaceutical companies are generally prohibited from marketing drugs for those same applications. Qui tam actions were filed under the False Claims Act. In 2009, Abbott disclosed in an SEC filing that the Department of Justice was investigating its marketing. Abbott pleaded guilty to illegally promoting Depakote from 2001 through 2006 and agreed to pay $1.6 billion to settle the criminal and qui tam actions. Employee benefits funds filed suit 15 months later, alleging that Abbott misrepresented Depakote’s safety and efficacy for off-label uses, paid kickbacks to physicians, established and funded intermediary entities to promote the drug for off-label uses, and concealed its role in these activities, in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The district court dismissed, finding that the statute of limitations for the RICO claim began to run in 1998, when the funds initially reimbursed a prescription for off-label use. The court refused to toll the limitations period until the guilty plea, finding that Abbott’s concealment efforts were not designed to hinder potential lawsuits. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that dismissal was premature without an opportunity for discovery into when a reasonable fund should have known about its injuries from off-label marketing. View "Sidney Hillman Health Ctr. of Rochester v. Abbott Labs., Inc." on Justia Law
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm. v. Herndon
A number of suits have challenged the accuracy of the warning label on Pradaxa, a prescription blood-thinning drug manufactured by Boehringer. The litigation is in the discovery stage. The district judge presiding over the litigation imposed sanctions on Boehringer for discovery abuse. Boehringer sought a writ of mandamus quashing the sanctions, which included fines, totaling almost $1 million and also ordered that plaintiffs’ depositions of 13 Boehringer employees, all of whom work in Germany be conducted at “a place convenient to the [plaintiffs] and [to] the defendants’ [Boehringer’s] United States counsel,” presumably in the United States. The parties had previously agreed to Amsterdam as the location. The Seventh Circuit rescinded the order with respect to the depositions but otherwise denied mandamus. View "Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm. v. Herndon" on Justia Law
Westmoreland Cnty. Emps. Retirement Sys. v. Parkinson
Baxter’s Colleague Infusion Pump, an electronic device used to deliver intravenous fluids to patients, was known to have a range of defects. The FDA sent Baxter warning letters. Baxter’s response was not satisfactory. In 2005 the FDA sought forfeiture of all Baxter‐owned Pumps. In 2006, Baxter entered into a Consent Decree to stop manufacturing and distributing all models of the Pump within the U.S., and committed to bringing the approximately 200,000 Pumps in the hands of health care professionals into compliance with the FDA Act. Baxter devoted significant resources to fixing the Pumps, but the FDA was not satisfied and ordered a product recall. In a derivative suit, plaintiffs alleged that that Baxter’s directors and officers breached fiduciary duties by consciously disregarding their responsibility to bring about compliance with the Consent Decree, causing Baxter to lose more than $550 million. Plaintiffs did not first ask Baxter’s board of directors to pursue those claims, but alleged futility. The district court dismissed, finding that Westmoreland failed adequately to plead demand futility, as required by FRCP 23.1(b)(3) and Delaware substantive law. The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that particularized facts furnished by plaintiffs cast a reasonable doubt that the defendants’ conduct was the product of a valid exercise of business judgment. View "Westmoreland Cnty. Emps. Retirement Sys. v. Parkinson" on Justia Law