Justia Drugs & Biotech Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Constitutional Law
Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht
Merck’s drug Fosamax treats and prevents osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. When the FDA approved Fosamax in 1995 (21 U.S.C. 355(d)), its label did not warn of the then-speculative risk of atypical femoral fractures associated with the drug. Stronger evidence connecting Fosamax to such fractures developed later. The FDA ordered Merck to add a warning to the Fosamax label in 2011. Individuals who took Fosamax and suffered atypical femoral fractures sued, claiming that state law imposed upon Merck a legal duty to warn. Merck asserted that the FDA would have rejected any attempt to change the label. The district court agreed with Merck’s pre-emption argument and granted Merck summary judgment. The Third Circuit vacated.The Supreme Court remanded. The Third Circuit incorrectly treated the pre-emption question as one of fact. A state-law failure-to-warn claim is pre-empted where there is “clear evidence” that the FDA would not have approved a change to the label. “Clear evidence” shows the court that the manufacturer fully informed the FDA of the justifications for the warning and that the FDA would not approve a label change to include that warning. FDA regulations permit drug manufacturers to change a label to “reflect newly acquired information” if the changes “add or strengthen a . . . warning” for which there is “evidence of a causal association.” The pre-emption question can only be determined by agency actions taken pursuant to the FDA’s congressionally delegated authority. The question of agency disapproval is primarily one of law for a judge to decide. Judges, rather than juries, are better equipped to evaluate an agency’s determination and to understand and interpret agency decisions in the statutory and regulatory context. While contested facts will sometimes prove relevant, they are subsumed within a tightly-circumscribed legal analysis and do not warrant submission to a jury. View "Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht" on Justia Law
Durnford v. MusclePharm Corp.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of an action alleging California consumer claims against MusclePharm Corporation, a manufacturer of nutritional supplements. The complaint alleged that MusclePharm made false or misleading statements about the protein in one of its products.The Ninth Circuit held that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and its implementing regulations concerned only the calculation and disclosure of protein amount; the FDCA preempted a state-law misbranding theory premised on the supplement's use of nitrogen-spiking agents to inflate the measurement of protein for the nutrition panel; but the FDCA did not preempt a state-law misbranding theory premised on the label's allegedly false or misleading implication that the supplement's protein came entirely from two specifically named, genuine protein sources. In this case, plaintiff's claims were not preempted to the extent they arose under this theory. View "Durnford v. MusclePharm Corp." on Justia Law
Association for Accessible Medicine v. Frosh
In 2017, Maryland enacted “An Act concerning Public Health – Essential Off-Patent or Generic Drugs – Price Gouging – Prohibition.” The Act, Md. Code, Health–General 2-802(a), prohibits manufacturers or wholesale distributors from “engag[ing] in price gouging in the sale of an essential off-patent or generic drug,” defines “price gouging” as “an unconscionable increase in the price of a prescription drug,” and “unconscionable increase” as “excessive and not justified by the cost of producing the drug or the cost of appropriate expansion of access to the drug to promote public health” that results in consumers having no meaningful choice about whether to purchase the drug at an excessive price due to the drug’s importance to their health and insufficient competition. The “essential” medications are “made available for sale in [Maryland]” and either appear on the Model List of Essential Medicines most recently adopted by the World Health Organization or are “designated . . . as an essential medicine due to [their] efficacy in treating a life-threatening health condition or a chronic health condition that substantially impairs an individual’s ability to engage in activities of daily living.” The Fourth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a “dormant commerce clause” challenge to the Act, finding that it directly regulates the price of transactions that occur outside Maryland. View "Association for Accessible Medicine v. Frosh" on Justia Law
New Hampshire v. Actavis Pharma, Inc.
The State of New Hampshire moved to enforce administrative subpoenas served on defendants Actavis Pharma, Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Purdue Pharma L.P., and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. The State was investigating defendants’ role in allegedly causing health care providers to prescribe opioids to treat chronic pain. Defendants resisted, arguing the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) engagement of outside counsel was unlawful. In addition, defendants moved for a protective order, seeking to “bar the Attorney General from engaging contingent fee counsel to: (a) participate in or assume responsibility for any aspect of the State’s investigation of alleged violations of the Consumer Protection Act . . . ; or (b) participate in or assume responsibility for any subsequent enforcement action pertaining to alleged CPA violations.” Defendants argued that the OAG’s fee agreements with the firm Cohen Milstein: (1) violated RSA 21-G:22 and :23 (2012) (amended 2016); (2) violated New Hampshire common law; (3) were ultra vires because the OAG did not comply with RSA 7:12 (2013) (amended 2016) or :6-f (Supp. 2016); (4) violated the doctrine of separation of powers; (5) violated the New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct; and (6) violated due process under the New Hampshire and United States Constitutions. The State replied that an objection to the Attorney General’s use of outside counsel was not appropriate justification for refusing to comply with lawful subpoenas, and that defendants lacked standing to raise that complaint. The trial court denied the State’s motion to enforce the subpoenas and granted the defendants’ motion for a protective order “to the extent that the OAG and Cohen Milstein’s contingency fee agreement is invalid.” The trial court determined that the defendants had demonstrated standing to bring their claims, that the fee agreement was void, and therefore denied the State’s motion to enforce the subpoenas on that basis. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded defendants lacked standing to challenge the outside counsel agreement. It reversed and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Actavis Pharma, Inc." on Justia Law
Pennsylvania v. Herman
Appellee was charged with a single count of possession with intent to distribute, or possession, of a “designer drug,” a substance similar to a scheduled controlled substance, not the same. The trial court here determined experts have been unable to reach an agreement on a method for analyzing and determining the similarities between the chemical structures the controlled substance and its designer analogue, leading it to conclude this disagreement rendered the Pennsylvania designer drug statute unconstitutionally vague. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed, finding the common pleas court did not account for the difference between the concepts of analogue and substantial similarity, the latter of which is more readily apprehensible to the lay citizen in the context of comparing chemical structures; nor did it recognize that, unlike the controlled-substance provision, the designer drug provision included a narrowing scienter specification. Moreover, the Court found in this case that there were “considerable similarities” as between the two molecules based on their two-dimensional diagrams. View "Pennsylvania v. Herman" on Justia Law
NiGen Biotech, L.L.C. v. Paxton
NiGen, manufacturer and distributor of dietary supplements, Isodrene and The HCG Solution, appealed the dismissal of its constitutional and state law claims against the Attorney General based on state sovereign immunity. NiGen had filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 after the AG sent letters to NiGen and its retailers, intimating that formal enforcement was on the horizon for both NiGen and its retailers. The retailers pulled the products from their shelves in Texas and other states, allegedly costing NiGen millions of dollars in lost revenue. The court concluded that it is at least partially correct that NiGen’s claims are not barred from federal jurisdiction on the basis of Ex parte Young; federal jurisdiction plainly exists over most of the constitutional claims pled; and NiGen has standing to sue. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, and vacated, remanding in part for further proceedings. View "NiGen Biotech, L.L.C. v. Paxton" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Drugs & Biotech
Lunada Biomedical v. Nunez
Laura Nunez's attorneys served Lunada with a notice under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), Civil Code section 1750 et seq., alleging that her dietary supplement, Amberen, was being marketed falsely and misleadingly as a natural remedy for Menopausal symptom relief. Lunada subsequently filed a declaratory relief action against Nunez and her attorneys. Nunez and her attorneys moved to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. The trial court granted the motion and Lunada appealed. The court held that the declaratory relief action seeking a declaration that Lunada had not violated the CLRA is subject to the anti-SLAPP statute because it arose out of protected activity under the statute. Consequently, the trial court properly granted the special motions to strike because Lunada's declaratory relief action had no probability of success. The court, under the reasoning of Filarsky v. Superior Court, held that a potential defendant in a CLRA damages action after receiving the statutory notice may not maintain a declaratory relief action to establish that there was no violation of the CLRA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the order striking the complaint and the award of attorney fees to Nunez and her attorneys. View "Lunada Biomedical v. Nunez" on Justia Law
Posted in: Constitutional Law, Drugs & Biotech
PRMA v. County of Alameda
Plaintiffs, non-profit organizations representing the manufacturers and distributors of pharmaceutical products, filed suit challenging the Alameda County Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance, which requires that prescription drug manufacturers, who either sell, offer for sale, or distribute "Covered Drugs" in Alameda, operate and finance a "Product Stewardship Program." The court concluded that the Ordinance, both on its face and in effect, does not discriminate because it applies to all manufacturers that make their drugs available in Alameda County - without respect to the geographic location of the manufacturer; the Ordinance does not directly regulate interstate commerce where it does not control conduct beyond the boundaries of the county; under the balancing test in Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., the court concluded that, without any evidence that the Ordinance will affect the interstate flow of goods, the Ordinance does not substantially burden interstate commerce; and therefore, the Ordinance does not violate the dormant Commerce Clause. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "PRMA v. County of Alameda" on Justia Law
SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories
GSK filed suit against Abbott over a dispute related to a licensing agreement and the pricing of HIV medications. The central issue on appeal was whether equal protection prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in jury selection. GSK contended that a new trial was warranted because Abbott unconstitutionally used a peremptory strike to exclude a juror on the basis of his sexual orientation. The court concluded that GSK had established a prima facie case of intentional discrimination where the juror at issue was the only juror to have identified himself as gay on the record and the subject of the litigation presented an issue of consequence to the gay community. The court held that classifications based on sexual orientation were subject to a heightened scrutiny under United States v. Windsor. The court also held that equal protection prohibits peremptory strikes based on sexual orientation. The history of exclusion of gays and lesbians from democratic institutions and the pervasiveness of stereotypes about the group leads the court to conclude that Batson v. Kentucky applied to peremptory strikes based on sexual orientation. The court also concluded that a Batson challenge would be cognizable only once a prospective juror's sexual orientation was established, voluntarily and on the record. The court rejected Abbott's harmless error argument. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Drugs & Biotech
Cook, et al. v. FDA, et al.
Plaintiffs, a group of prisoners, filed suit against the FDA for allowing state correctional departments to import sodium thiopental (thiopental), a misbranded and misapproved new drug used in lethal injection protocols, in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), 21 U.S.C. 381(a), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A). The court concluded that, because there were clear statutory guidelines for the agency to follow in exercising its enforcement powers, the FDA's compliance with section 381(a) was subject to judicial review under the standards of the APA. The court also concluded that the FDA's policy of admitting foreign manufactured thiopental destined for state correctional facilities were not in accordance with law because section 381(a) required the agency to sample and examine for violations of any drug offered for import that had been prepared in an unregistered facility. The court concluded, however, that the district court erred by failing to seek the joinder of the state governments whose possession and use of the thiopental at issue the court declared illegal. Accordingly, the order of the district court pertaining to the thiopental already in the possession of the states was vacated, but the underlying judgment of the district court was affirmed. View "Cook, et al. v. FDA, et al." on Justia Law