Our Charleston drug recall lawyers have noticed numerous advertisements on television asking viewers if they have been harmed by a variety of defective consumer products, primarily including asbestos exposure and pharmaceutical drugs. The aim of these ads is to reach out to the American Public, find individuals who have been injured from a product, and form a class action lawsuit against the producers of a product that has caused serious injuries and wrongful deaths. A class action, or a representative action, is a law suit in which a group of people collectively bring a claim against a defendant. The idea being there is strength in numbers when challenging major manufacturers of consumer products, think back to the tobacco litigation of the early and mid 1990s.
Just as an aside, there is a fantastic book that details the development of the class action suit against big tobacco entitled Civil Warriors, and authored by Dan Zegart. It does a superb job of showing the effectiveness of representative action as a means to provide injunctive relief. In the case of the tobacco industry, an example would be the requirement for cigarette makers to eliminate advertisements that attract kids to smoking, like the cartoon character, Joe Camel.
Currently there are a couple of pharmaceutical drugs that have gained national attention because of their harmful side effects to consumers, Topamax and Accutane.
Topamax was originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Christmas Eve 1996 as a treatment for total and partial seizures. Later, in 2004, the drug was also approved for the treatment of migraine headaches. But, in March of this year, following a study by the Antiepilptic Drug Pregnancy Registry, the FDA issued a warning to pregnant women taking the drug due its risk of increasing the likelihood of malformation of newborns and birth injuries and defects. The warning issued by the FDA required Topamax’s manufacturer, Ortho-McNeil, to update their warning label, and moved Topamax from a “Category C” drug, to the more dangerous drug classification “Category D.” Taking Topamax while pregnant can cause babies to be born with with both a Cleft Palate and a Cleft Lip.
The prescription drug Accuntane has been on the market much longer than Topamax, almost three decades. It is a powerful medication designed to combat severe nodular acne. Nodular acne is characterized by large acne spots that can be quite painful and can last for months. Nodules themselves are large, hard bumps that develop under the skin’s surface. As a medication, Accutane was quite successful at treating this particular type of acne, but sometimes with success comes failure. Because of Accutane’s effectiveness it began being over-prescribed to treat mild and moderates cases of acne. Long known to be severely dangerous for pregnant women, or those trying to become pregnant, the drug was packaged with overt warnings to prevent the possibility of severe birth defects and mutations in newborns birthed by consumers.
But, in June of 2009 Hoffman LaRoche, producers of Acctune, were forced to take the drug off the shelves due to the company losing a $33 million product liability lawsuit to the injured plaintiff. Unfortunately, the drug is now linked to such dangerous side effects as Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis. At this time, many successful representative action suits have been brought against Hoffman LaRoche with judgments in excess of $50 million.