Supreme Court Knocks Down Bogus Pre-Emption Claim in Drug Labeling Case

Today the Supreme Court in Wyeth v. Levine rejected the claim by drug maker Wyeth that federal approval of its drug labels shields it from liability under state law. The 6-3 ruling upheld a jury settlement to Diana Levine, a Vermont musician who lost much of her right arm after a Wyeth medication was improperly administered.

People For the American Way president Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement:

"Today's ruling was a welcome, and rare, victory for the rights of American patients and consumers. The pre-emption policy advocated by Wyeth would have irresponsibly shut off the ability of states to safeguard the health — and very lives — of Americans. Such a policy would inevitably result in more tragic cases like that of Diana Levine.

"We cannot put the onus in regulating drugs entirely on the federal government and let drug makers off the hook. As the Vermont Supreme Court said, federal law 'provides a floor, not a ceiling, for state regulation.' It is crucial that other regulators, and individual Americans, be able to challenge giant drug makers in the courts.

"Today's ruling marks a tremendous victory for Diana Levine and all Americans, but the Roberts Court has slapped down many other wronged Americans who have faced off against powerful interests. Even in this case, Chief Justice Roberts joined Justices Scalia and Alito to support Wyeth and claim that Diana Levine had no recourse. That stance is radical and would put the safety of all Americans in jeopardy."

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