Reglan Cases - How Lawyers Determine Whether a Case is Viable
Although the conduct of big pharmaceutical corporations is arguably criminal – given that the connection between Reglan (metoclopramide) and tardive dyskinesia (as well as numerous other side effects) has been known since the mid-1960s, a Reglan lawsuit is a civil proceeding that falls under the category of torts, or personal injury law.
Legal assistance is available to those who used Reglan (metoclopramide) and have developed Tardive Dyskinesia. If you or a loved one were prescribed Reglan and have since developed Tardive Dyskinesia, you may wish to file a lawsuit to cover the cost of medical expenses and compensate for the pain and suffering caused by the adverse effects of the drug.
Was It Avoidable?
It can be argued that the rising tide of litigation against drug companies is a result of a health care system that is completely privatized and profit-driven (although a fair amount of drug research is in fact subsidized by the federal government). These companies are usually heavily invested in these products; research, development and marketing can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the rush to get these drugs to market and generating profits as soon as possible, many corners are cut; testing is not as thorough as it should be. In addition, politicization of the FDA in recent years has made that agency less effective in protecting the interests of the public, even as it has enabled the large pharmaceutical corporations to flood the market with untested, potentially deadly drugs.
Changes are now happening; the FDA as well as the courts are adopting a "get tough" stance with drug companies that for too long have valued profits and investor return far above human life and well-being. In the case of Reglan, the FDA recently required that a "black box warning" be placed on every package. While this warning may prevent future tragedies, it comes a few decades too late for many.
Litigation against drug companies that manufactured and sold Reglan is relatively new area of tort law, but there are many cases pending – and if early court findings are any indication, the amounts involved could ultimately be comparable to those of asbestos actions over the past thirty years.
Many law firms will take a case on a contingency basis – meaning that the lawyers' fees will be taken as a percentage of any award or settlement. It also means that if the lawyers are unable to secure judgment in favor of the plaintiff, they will receive nothing – therefore, they are very motivated to win the case.
They will also want to be absolutely certain that the client has a viable case with a good chance of winning. In this sense, a Reglan case is similar to other types of product liability cases.
The Heart of the Matter: Determining Liability
The first order of business is to determine who exactly is at fault. While it may seem obvious to point the finger at the drug company, this is not always as cut and dry as it might seem. Your legal counsel will need to know:
Which company actually manufactured the drug?
Currently, metoclopramide is made by several different pharmaceutical firms.
Did the company know, or should it have known, of the hazards of the drug?
This is usually a given (it falls under the legal doctrine of failure to warn). However, a recent California case (Conte v. Wyeth) suggests that Company A may be held liable for harm done by the same product even when it is actually manufactured and sold by Company B – if the first company created the advisory on the use of the product in question.
Was the drug used according to instructions, and were all guidelines followed?
This is important: a patient who knowingly and deliberately overdosed on a medication is unlikely to have a case. (Legally, this is called a marketing defect.) On the other hand, if the prescribing physician knowingly over-medicated the patient, that would be grounds for a malpractice suit, not a product liability action.
Is there evidence from the company itself establishing that hazards of the drug were known and ignored?
This has been a major factor in establishing liability (see "failure to warn," above) not only in drug liability cases (there are several instances in which drug company executives deliberately ignored their own research and downplayed the hazards in order to increase profits at the expense of people), but in other product liability cases as well.
How long was the medication used, and when did symptoms begin to develop?
Can medical records provide confirmation? This is important in establishing cause.
Are there other symptoms?
Reglan side effects also include chronic fatigue, liver and renal dysfunction, allergic reactions, heart problems, gynecomastia (breast development in the male), impotence and a particularly dangerous condition called neurological malignancy syndrome, which can cause high fever, muscular rigidity and nervous system disorders. Some patients are known to exhibit depression and symptoms of akathisia, a complete inability to sit still coupled with intense anxiety.
What is the Case Worth?
Once liability and thus grounds for action have been established, it will be necessary to determine the amount of the award that will be sought. This is usually based on medical expenses involved in the treatment of the condition and loss of wages or salary due to an inability to work. These are fairly straightforward criteria, as they are easily measured and documented.
Other issues such as pain and suffering and "loss of consortium" (when a married partner is unable to engage in conjugal relations because of the condition) can be more difficult to evaluate, being as these are more subjective. An attorney can offer some guidelines on this however, based on precedents.