A parent’s worst nightmare became a heartbreaking reality for the England family of Virginia. Nicholas England, a vibrant 22-year-old, took his own life just days after commencing an allergy medicine. His tragic story unveils not just the potential dangers of the drug he was prescribed, but also the judicial loopholes that prevent families like the Englands from seeking justice.
The Drug at the Center of the Controversy
Singulair, the popular asthma and allergy medicine produced by Merck and its generic counterparts, has long been associated with psychiatric issues, including suicidal tendencies, particularly in young patients. Despite such grave concerns, this drug has made Merck a whopping $50 billion in revenue, highlighting the staggering influence and reach of Big Pharma.
The Doctrine of Preemption: A Corporate Shield
When the England family sought legal recourse, they encountered the doctrine of preemption, a legal principle that essentially argues federal law trumps state law. Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings have fortified this doctrine, particularly for generic drug manufacturers. This means that even if a drug is proven harmful, if its label and formulation align with federal standards, state lawsuits based on consumer safety may be rendered null and void.
Why is this alarming? Generics dominate the U.S. pharmaceutical market, accounting for 91% of prescriptions. This essentially places a vast majority of medications outside the direct reach of legal recourse.
Is Corporate Interest Above Consumer Safety?
Jennifer England poignantly voiced the frustration many Americans feel: “It is very frustrating to realize that’s a loophole. I’m a small person in southwestern Virginia, and that’s a loophole there to protect companies much bigger than we could fight.”
These defense mechanisms not only shield companies from financial repercussions but also from disclosing potentially vital information to the public. While lawsuits against Merck might have forced revelations about what they knew concerning Singulair’s dangers, the England family and countless others are left in the dark.
What Should We Demand Moving Forward?
At OnderLaw, we firmly believe in the principle that corporations should be held accountable when their products cause harm. Consumer safety must be paramount. Lawsuits play a critical role in this ecosystem, not just as a means of securing justice but also as a tool to expose potential dangers and instigate industry-wide improvements.
- Transparency: Pharmaceutical companies must be more forthcoming about their research and potential side effects. The 4,800 reports of patients, including children, who suffered psychiatric problems after taking Singulair are a testament to the importance of transparency.
- Re-evaluation of Preemption: Legal doctrines should not be wielded as tools that prioritize corporate protection over consumer safety. A re-evaluation of the doctrine of preemption is crucial to strike a balance.
- Empower the FDA: The FDA must be equipped to monitor, regulate, and intervene more effectively. The delay until 2020 to place a “black box” warning on Singulair, despite numerous reports, shows a critical need for improvement.
The story of Nicholas England underscores the broader issue of corporate protections that can sometimes eclipse consumer safety. At OnderLaw, we pledge to relentlessly advocate for a landscape where companies are held accountable, where families like the Englands can find justice, and where consumer protection reigns supreme. We urge everyone to stay informed and to demand better, because your safety and the safety of your loved ones depend on it. If you or a loved one have been affected by dangerous drugs, contact us today. Your case is our cause.