Justia Drugs & Biotech Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Williamson v. Genentech, Inc.
Genentech manufactures and sells Rituxan, a drug used to treat leukemia and lymphoma. Rituxan is sold in single-use vials. Williamson was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma and was treated with Rituxan. Williamson later sued Genentech, on behalf of himself and a putative class of similarly situated individuals. He claims that Genentech violates the unfair competition law by selling Rituxan (and three other medications) in excessively large single-use vials; because the appropriate dosage varies based on a patient’s body size, Genentech’s vial sizes are too large for most patients. He argues Genentech should be required to offer smaller vials to reduce the waste of expensive medicine. In addition to injunctive relief, Williamson seeks to recover the amount the class spent on wasted Rituxan (and three other medications). Williamson took only Rituxan, not the other three medications, and paid a $231.15 deductible– the rest of the payments were made by his health insurer.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the case for lack of standing under California’s unfair competition law (Bus. & Prof. Code 17200). Williamson suffered no economic injury caused by the alleged unfair practices and cannot establish standing by borrowing an economic injury from his insurer. The collateral source rule, under which a tortfeasor must fully compensate a victim and cannot subtract compensation the victim may have received from their insurer or another collateral source, does not apply. View "Williamson v. Genentech, Inc." on Justia Law
Onglyza Product Cases
In 2008, as part of the defendants’ application for approval of Onglyza and Kombiglyze XR, two diabetes drugs with saxagliptin as the active ingredient, the FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee required that defendant AstraZeneca perform a cardiovascular outcomes study. “SAVOR” was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study that consisted of 16,492 patients with type 2 diabetes who were at high risk of cardiovascular disease. The study concluded that saxagliptin did not increase or decrease the risk of these occurrences but noted a higher risk of hospitalization. Following SAVOR, the FDA required warning labels for medications containing saxagliptin, referring to the potential increased risk of heart failure. Researchers conducted additional studies and did not find an association between saxagliptin and an increased risk of hospitalization for heart failure.Patients who took drugs with saxagliptin filed approximately 250 related cases. Most of these cases were filed in federal court and consolidated into federal multidistrict litigation. A Judicial Council coordination proceeding (JCCP) was established for the California state court cases. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court upheld the exclusion of the plaintiffs’ general causation expert, who opined that saxagliptin can cause heart failure. View "Onglyza Product Cases" on Justia Law
Center for Environmental Health v. Perrigo Co.
Generic versions of ranitidine-containing antacids are sold under the brand name Zantac. In 2019, after an independent laboratory found “significant quantities of NDMA,” a known carcinogen in ranitidine-containing antacids, the FDA issued a public alert. Some manufacturers voluntarily recalled their products. In 2020, the FDA “request[ed that] manufacturers withdraw all prescription and [OTC] ranitidine drugs from the market immediately.”CEH, a nonprofit corporation, sued under Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Health and Safety Code 25249.5, alleging that the generic-drug defendants continued to expose individuals to NDMA without clear and reasonable warnings regarding the carcinogenic hazards. The trial court dismissed the generic defendants without leave to amend, citing preemption by the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 301. The court determined that the generic-drug defendants cannot give a Proposition 65 warning without violating the federal requirement that the generic version of a drug have the same “labeling” as the brand-name version. The court of appeal affirmed that dismissal. Although not all methods of publicly communicating a warning about a drug necessarily qualify as “labeling,” CEH fails to identify any method by which the generic-drug defendants could provide a warning that would satisfy both Proposition 65 and the federal duty of sameness. View "Center for Environmental Health v. Perrigo Co." on Justia Law
Amiodarone was developed in the 1960s for the treatment of angina and was released in other countries. Amiodarone is associated with side effects, including pulmonary fibrosis, blindness, thyroid cancer, and death. In the 1970s, U.S. physicians began obtaining amiodarone from other countries for use in patients with life-threatening ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia who did not respond to other drugs. In 1985, the FDA approved Wyeth’s formulation of amiodarone, Cordarone, as a drug of last resort for patients suffering from recurring life-threatening ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. The FDA’s “special needs” approval issued without randomized clinical trials. In 1989, the FDA described Wyeth’s promotional activities as promoting an unapproved use of the drug. In 1992, the FDA objected to promotional labeling pieces for Cordarone. Other manufacturers developed generic amiodarone, which has been available since 1998.Consolidated lawsuits alleged that plaintiffs suffered unnecessary, serious side effects when they took amiodarone, as prescribed by their doctors, for off-label use to treat atrial fibrillation, a more common, less serious, condition than ventricular fibrillation. The FDA never approved amiodarone for the treatment of atrial fibrillation, even on a special-needs basis. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuits. The claims are preempted as attempts to privately enforce the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 301, regulations governing medication guides and labeling and have no independent basis in state law. The court also rejected fraud claims under California’s unfair competition law and Consumers Legal Remedy Act. View "Amiodarone Cases" on Justia Law
County of Santa Barbara v. Mancini
April Mancini owned the Jah Healing Kemetic Temple of the Divine Church, Inc. (the Church), whose adherents consume cannabis blessed by Church pastors as “sacrament.” The County of San Bernardino (the County) determined that the Church routinely sold cannabis products in violation of a County ordinance prohibiting commercial cannabis activity on unincorporated County land. The trial court found that the Church was operating an illegal cannabis dispensary and issued a permanent injunction against Mancini and the Church, among other relief. Mancini and the Church appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "County of Santa Barbara v. Mancini" on Justia Law
California v. Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson, Ethicon, Inc., and Ethicon US, LLC (collectively, Ethicon) appealed after a trial court levied nearly $344 million in civil penalties against Ethicon for willfully circulating misleading medical device instructions and marketing communications that misstated, minimized, and/or omitted the health risks of Ethicon’s surgically-implantable transvaginal pelvic mesh products. The court found Ethicon committed 153,351 violations of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), and 121,844 violations of the False Advertising Law (FAL). The court imposed a $1,250 civil penalty for each violation. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in just one respect: in addition to penalizing Ethicon for its medical device instructions and printed marketing communications, the court penalized Ethicon for its oral marketing communications, specifically, for deceptive statements Ethicon purportedly made during one-on-one conversations with doctors, at Ethicon-sponsored lunch events, and at health fair events. However, there was no evidence of what Ethicon’s employees and agents actually said in any of these oral marketing communications. Therefore, the Court of Appeal concluded substantial evidence did not support the trial court’s factual finding that Ethicon’s oral marketing communications were likely to deceive doctors. Judgment was amended to strike the nearly $42 million in civil penalties that were imposed for these communications. View "California v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law
Neurelis, Inc. v. Aquestive Therapeutics, Inc.
Neurelis, Inc. (Neurelis) and Aquestive Therapeutics, Inc. (Aquestive) were pharmaceutical companies developing their own respective means to administer diazepam, a drug used to treat acute repetitive seizures (ARS). Neurelis was further along in the development process than Aquestive. According to Neurelis, Aquestive engaged in a “multi-year, anticompetitive campaign to derail the Food and Drug Administration” (FDA) from approving Neurelis’s new drug. Based on Aquestive’s alleged conduct, Neurelis sued Aquestive for defamation, malicious prosecution, and violation of the unfair competition law. In response, Aquestive brought a special motion to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute. The superior court granted in part and denied in part Aquestive’s motion, finding that the defamation cause of action could not withstand the anti-SLAPP challenge. However, the court denied the motion as to Neurelis’s other two causes of action. Aquestive appealed, contending the court erred by failing to strike the malicious prosecution action as well as the claim for a violation of the UCL. Neurelis, in turn, cross-appealed, maintaining that the conduct giving rise to its defamation cause of action was not protected under the anti- SLAPP statute. The Court of Appeal agreed that at least some of the conduct giving rise to the defamation action was covered by the commercial speech exception and not subject to the anti-SLAPP statute. Accordingly, the Court held the superior court erred in granting the anti-SLAPP motion as to the defamation action. Some of this same conduct also gave rise to the UCL claim and was not subject to the anti-SLAPP statute too. However, the Court noted that Neurelis based part of two of its causes of action on Aquestive’s petitioning activity. That activity was protected conduct under the anti-SLAPP statute, and Neurelis did not show a likelihood to prevail on the merits. Thus, allegations relating to this petitioning conduct had to be struck. Finally, the Court found Neurelis did not show a probability of success on the merits regarding its malicious prosecution claim. As such, the Court held that claim should have been struck under the anti-SLAPP statute. View "Neurelis, Inc. v. Aquestive Therapeutics, Inc." on Justia Law
Gall v. Smith & Nephew, Inc.
Smith’s hip resurfacing implant consists of a metal ball that covers the top of the femur and a cup that fits inside the hip socket. When a surgeon puts these ball-and-cup surfaces in the joint, the polished metal surfaces are supposed to allow smoother movement than the damaged bone or cartilage they replace. Gall, who had hip resurfacing surgery for his left hip, recovered and became physically active. Years later, convinced his implant was unsatisfactory, Gall sued Smith.Gall argued that Smith failed to properly warn Gall’s surgeon, Dr. Hernandez, about the risks of using Smith’s product. The trial court granted Smith summary judgment because Hernandez independently knew these risks and whether Smith gave Hernandez redundant warnings did not matter. Gall also argued that Smith’s product was defective. The trial court granted summary judgment because Gall did not show anything was wrong with his implant. Gall did show Smith’s quality control procedures once failed to satisfy regulatory authorities, but the court concluded this fact did not imply the parts Gall received were defective. The court of appeal affirmed. Gall’s claims share the same causation element and Gall did not establish causation. View "Gall v. Smith & Nephew, Inc." on Justia Law
County of Los Angeles v. Superior Ct.
In the lawsuit underlying these consolidated writ proceedings, the People of the State of California, by and through the Santa Clara County Counsel, the Orange County District Attorney, the Los Angeles County Counsel, and the Oakland City Attorney, filed an action against defendants— various pharmaceutical companies involved in the manufacture, marketing, distribution, and sale of prescription opioid medications. The People alleged the defendants made false and misleading statements as part of a deceptive marketing scheme designed to minimize the risks of opioid medications and inflate their benefits. This scheme, the People alleged, caused a public health crisis in California by dramatically increasing the number of opioid prescriptions, the use and abuse of opioids, and opioid-related deaths. These proceedings pertained to a discovery dispute after several of the defendants served subpoenas on two nonparty counties, petitioners County of Los Angeles and County of Alameda, seeking records of patients in various county programs, including individual prescription data and individual patient records related to substance abuse treatment. After petitioners and the Johnson & Johnson defendants engaged in various informal and formal means to attempt to resolve the dispute, the superior court issued a discovery order granting the Johnson & Johnson defendants’ motions to compel production of the records. The Court of Appeal concluded petitioners established that the superior court’s order threatened a serious intrusion into the privacy interests of the patients whose records were at issue: the Johnson & Johnson defendants failed to demonstrate their interests in obtaining “such a vast production of medical information” outweighed the significant privacy interests that the nonparty petitioners identified. Accordingly, the Court granted petitioners’ writ petitions and directed the superior court to vacate its order compelling production of the requested documents, and to enter a new order denying Johnson & Johnson defendants’ motions to compel. View "County of Los Angeles v. Superior Ct." on Justia Law
Board of Registered Nursing v. Super. Ct.
The People of the State of California, by and through the Santa Clara County Counsel, the Orange County District Attorney, the Los Angeles County Counsel, and the Oakland City Attorney, filed suit against various pharmaceutical companies involved in the manufacture, marketing, distribution, and sale of prescription opioid medications. The People alleged the defendants made false and misleading statements as part of a deceptive marketing scheme designed to minimize the risks of opioid medications and inflate their benefits. The People alleged this scheme caused a public health crisis in California by dramatically increasing opioid prescriptions, opioid use, opioid abuse, and opioid-related deaths. In their suit, the People allege causes of action for violations of the False Advertising Law, and the public nuisance statutes. After several years of litigation, the defendants served business record subpoenas on four nonparty state agencies: the California State Board of Registered Nursing (Nursing Board), the California State Board of Pharmacy (Pharmacy Board), the Medical Board of California (Medical Board), and the California Department of Justice (DOJ). The Pharmacy Board, the Medical Board, and the DOJ served objections to the subpoenas. The Nursing Board filed a motion for a protective order seeking relief from the production obligations of its subpoena. After further litigation, which is recounted below, the trial court ordered the state agencies to produce documents in response to the subpoenas. In consolidated proceedings, the state agencies challenged the trial court's orders compelling production of documents. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the motions to compel against the Pharmacy Board and Medical Board were untimely, and the defendants were required to serve consumer notices on at least the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals whose identities would be disclosed in the administrative records, investigatory files, and coroner’s reports. Furthermore, the Court concluded the requests for complete administrative records and investigatory files, were overbroad and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. "The requests for complete administrative records and investigatory files also ran afoul of the constitutional right to privacy and the statutory official information and deliberative process privileges." The trial court was directed to vacate its orders compelling production of documents, and to enter new orders denying the motions to compel and, for the Nursing Board, granting its motion for a protective order. View "Board of Registered Nursing v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law