Articles Tagged with FDA

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Have you ever had a problem with a medical device? If you want to bring state law claims against the manufacturer or a doctor, there’s an important legal concept you should know about: federal preemption. In a recent case, the court dismissed several of the plaintiff’s claims against Smith & Nephew, finding that the claims were preempted by federal law. Let’s look at what happened in that case to illustrate how preemption works. Note that while this case involves a hip replacement, the same legal principle could apply to any medical device regulated under U.S. law.

Smith & Nephew Artificial Hip Replacement

Artificial hip replacement and hip resurfacing
By way of background, the hip is a ball-and-socket joint, moving not just forward and back (like a knee joint) but also sideways. In a total hip replacement, part of the upper thigh bone and the ball portion of the hip joint are replaced with metal components. Part of the replacement includes a liner between the ball and the socket that allows the hip to rotate freely. Some patients have hip resurfacing surgery instead, where only the interface between the hip joint’s ball and its socket is replaced with a new surface.

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Invokana and Type 2 DiabetesInvokana is a drug prescribed to treat people with Type 2 diabetes. The medication lowers blood sugar levels by preventing the kidneys from reabsorbing blood glucose. I’ve written often about Invokana and the studies that have identified problems with the drug, which you can read about here. I thought it may be useful to give you a history of key dates in the life-cycle of the drug, from its market release through the latest developments in the multidistrict litigation, where currently 1,000 lawsuits have been filed.

May 31, 2012. On this date Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a drug company owned by Johnson & Johnson, submitted an application to the FDA for approval of Invokana.

March 29, 2013.  The FDA approves Invokana for sale. Janssen and J&J begin selling the drug.

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Xarelto case underway in PhiladelphiaThe first Xarelto trial is underway in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The cases in Philadelphia state court are separate from the federal court Xarelto multidistrict litigation situated in Louisiana. I have written about Xarelto often on this website, and you can read more about the medication and the lawsuits that followed here. The cases in the Court of Common Pleas are very similar to the MDL cases, and most of the cases involved allegations of uncontrollable internal bleeding. The Philadelphia state court mass tort program has been taking Xarelto cases since 2014, and currently there are more than 1,500 cases filed there. More cases are being filed each week, in Pennsylvania and in the Louisiana MDL.

The first of these “Philadelphia cases” went to trial this week. For the plaintiffs in both state and federal court, a win would be most welcome, as plaintiffs in the first three MDL bellwether cases lost.

First Philadelphia Xarelto Trial Begins

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Diabetes Drug InvokanaDiabetes is an awful disease. It is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar. Diabetes is also a growing health problem in the United States, with over 29 million Americans currently suffering from the disease. Of the newly diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults, approximately 95% are for Type 2 diabetes (sometimes referred to as adult onset). It’s also expected that one out of every three people will develop diabetes in their lifetimes.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the human body doesn’t produce enough insulin, a hormone used to help the body absorb glucose. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the human body produces enough insulin, but cannot use insulin properly. Both types of diabetes result in high blood sugar levels which can cause long-term health problems.

What does all this mean? From the perspective of pharmaceutical companies, it means there is a huge market for Type 2 diabetes drugs.

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Fosamax user with broken femur
Osteoporosis is a disease where the human body’s bones become weaker. It is a common issue with women who have gone through menopause. The drug company Merck developed a drug called Fosamax (alendronate) hoping to prevent and treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

As with all other drugs, Fosamax had side effects, one of which was actually increasing the risk of femoral (thigh) bone fractures. Thousands of users of Fosamax suffered this side effect and sued Merck.

Even though there were a lot of plaintiffs suing, many of their cases became consolidated into a multi-district litigation, or MDL, in New Jersey.

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Drug Companies MoneyLet me state the obvious: companies sell you stuff with one purpose in mind, to make money. McDonald’s doesn’t sell you quarter pounders because the company believes what you need to live a better life is to eat more quarter pounders. The NRA doesn’t advocate gun ownership because it believes you need to own five Glock 9s (you don’t), but rather so the gun makers can sell more guns. Mercedes doesn’t make expensive cars because its board of directors hope to improve the world by selling you cars with heated leather seats. Every company sets out first to last to make money. And the more money the better.

So it goes with pharmaceutical companies. The general public may sleepwalk through the concept and lazily presume that the primary motivation for drug companies is to develop medications which cure diseases or which minimize the suffering from diseases. But in fact the motivation for pharmaceutical companies is to make money, and a lot of it. This is rather obvious and not a controversial point, and I’d like to believe that every “BigPharma” corporate board would agree with me. But it helps to keep this profit motive in mind when doing research on drugs you have been prescribed or which you are currently taking. And to be hyper-vigilant about assessing any new “wonder drugs” which hit the market.

“Off-Label” Drug Promotion

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Drug TestingDr. Robert Califf is a cardiologist and the departing Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. He resigned his post last Friday, on Inauguration Day. Recently he gave a speech regarding his thoughts on the future of prescription drug testing, and he urged lawmakers to respect the value of science in approving and marketing prescription medications. According to Matthew Herper in Forbes magazine, Dr. Califf believes “the way forward requires putting science above politics and focusing on creating new ways to prove medicines help patients without causing undue side effects. Throwing out the standards that made the U.S. a global hotspot for medical innovation is not an option.”

Dr. Califf offered remarkable insight on the high failure rate of clinically-tested medications, as well as the urgent need for medications to do no harm:

FDA Approved Drugs“The most recent empirical data that we have at the FDA is that approximately 92% of drugs that go into human testing don’t make it to market because they have unacceptable toxicity, they actually don’t work for the intended purpose, or they can’t be manufactured at scale safely. Of the 92% of drugs that don’t make it to market, “100% had a lot of really smart people who thought they were going to work. If you were just going to start guessing about drugs you would do a lot of harm, because most of them would do more harm than good.”

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supermoon-724384_1920-287x300If you’ve kept up with politics even a little bit, you know how much gridlock exists in Congress. It’s amazing that anything can get done in Washington. However, a new law called the 21st Century Cures Act just passed with tremendous bipartisan support; this law must be really good, right?

21st Century Cures Act: The Good

The 21st Century Cures Act has the potential to save lives. For instance, it will provide funding for cancer research, fight painkiller drug abuse, advance Alzheimer’s research and improve mental health treatments.

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FDA Open Meeting on Off-Label Drug Use

Communications between pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers and physicians are highly regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but the agency, as much as it may want to be, does not have the final say in all regulation. These companies have First Amendment commercial free speech rights (though they’re not as broad as the free speech rights individuals have) and there’s a tension between what the FDA wants companies to say, what these companies want to say, and what the courts say the companies can say.

The agency in late August published a notice of public hearing and request for comments concerning manufacturer communications regarding unapproved uses of approved or cleared medical products. The hearing will be held on November 9-10, 2016 in Silver Spring, Maryland, and in case you want to present information you must register by October 19. You could also send in written comments by January 9.

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Transvaginal Mesh Warn LabelBetter late than never when it comes to warnings on potentially harmful medical devices, but the harm will only stop when the use of defective medical devices stops. Boston Scientific, a maker of transvaginal mesh and slings, is confronting the reality that its product can cause serious harm to patients. In June the company announced its products will carry a new warning label. Transvaginal mesh is used to treat common pelvic disorders in women, which you can read about here.

Boston Scientific is facing more than 36,000 product liability cases because of injuries the mesh has caused, including infections and erosion of surrounding tissue, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Transvaginal slings are used as treatment for incontinence and surgical meshes are surgically implanted to strengthen tissue in women suffering from pelvic organ prolapse.

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