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Supreme Court sides with generic drug manufacturers, but what does it mean for consumers?

An assortment of pills are splayed across a white background.
An assortment of pills are splayed across a white background.

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When Americans go to the pharmacy, they overwhelmingly exchange scribbles on a white piece of paper for a little bottle of “generic” drugs. And why not, they are a lot less expense. But thanks to recent ruling by the Supreme Court, consumers are going to have to be a bit more diligent about monitoring the side effects and medical warnings associated with their medication. The high court decided that generic drug companies have no duty to report medical warnings. They reasoned that that responsibility should fall squarely on the shoulders of the brand name makers and the FDA. The only problem is that once a generic version hits the market, the name brand usually disappears because it can’t compete—who is going to pay more for something they can get for less? And once the brand name is pulled from the market, the drug manufacturer no longer has an incentive to update the medical warnings. The court made it clear that copy-cat generic drug makers can not be held responsible for any injuries associated with use of the drug. So if they aren’t responsible for updating warnings and the brand name manufacturers are under no obligation to do so either, who is informing the consumer?


Michael Johnson, attorney and partner at Johnson Becker. Johnson was Mensing’s trail counsel and the 2nd chair for oral arguments before the Supreme Court