Amidst the understandable sound and fury of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decisions on marriage equality and their activist zeal to gut the Voting Rights Act in their determination to legislate from the bench that which is specifically mandated by the Constitution to be legislated by Congress, a number of their other end-of-term decisions managed to fly largely beneath the radar.
One of those decisions came late last month when the five right-wing members of the Court ruled that citizens who are severely injured, maimed or even killed by FDA-approved --- but unreasonably dangerous --- generic prescription drugs, have no right to seek compensation from the giant pharmaceutical companies which manufacture and market them to unsuspecting consumers.
In its 5-4 decision in Mutual Pharmaceutical Co., Inc. vs. Bartlett [PDF] ("Bartlett"), the Court annulled a $21 million judgment that had been awarded to New Hampshire resident Karen L. Bartlett. Her use of the generic drug, Sulindac, in 2004, produced catastrophic injuries when she suffered an acute toxic necrolysis (aka Stevens-Johnson Syndrome).
In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito described her injuries as "tragic" and acknowledged that over 65% of Bartlett's body "was burned off, or turned into an open wound. She spent months in a medically induced coma, underwent 12 eye surgeries, and was tube fed for a year. She is now severely disfigured…and is nearly blind."
For Alito, and the rest of the Court's right-wing majority, the severity of Bartlett's injury proved inconsequential when measured against Big Pharma's bottom line and their interest in selling generic drugs, which account for 75% of the prescription drugs sold in the U.S.
As a result, as it applies to generics, for the first time in our nation's history, FDA permission to market has been treated as a final stamp of approval as to the generic drug's safety, irrespective of the scope of subsequently obtained scientific evidence that reveals otherwise.
Anyone who is now injured, maimed or killed by what turn out to be generic, poison pills are S.O.L....