(WASHINGTON) -- By a 5-4 decision, the conservative wing of the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that makers of generic pharmaceutical drugs can't be sued for debilitating side-effects because federal approval of medicines holds sway over a state’s consumer-protection laws.
The case concerned New Hampshire resident Karen Bartlett who charged that after she took the drug sulindac for shoulder pain, she wound up losing 60 percent of the skin on her body, a condition called toxic epidermal necrolysis.
A lower court awarded Bartlett $21 million, determining that Mutual Pharmaceuticals sold an unsafe drug.
However, attorneys for the company argued successfully before the Supreme Court that the verdict conflicted with federal law stating that Food and Drug Administration approval gives generic drug makers protection from liability.
However, the same does not hold true for brand-name drugs, based on a 2009 high court decision.
Writing for the liberal minority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that "the court has left a seriously injured consumer without any remedy despite Congress’ explicit efforts to preserve state common-law liability."
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