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How does one explore whether or how to sue a drug company?
March 8, 2006 2:48 PM   Subscribe

How does one explore whether or how to sue a drug company?

Twice in the past 2 years, my dad has had "freak" accidents where he tears a muscle tendon clear off the bone.

The first was his forearm. He was using a screwdriver when suddenly his muscle snapped. It required surgery and luckily he has almost all normal use back, but took probably about a year from time of injury to get there.

Two weeks ago he was doing dips and his pectoral muscle snapped off his shoulder. He just had the surgery, but the doctors said it wasn't as successful as the last one and he'll never gain full use of that muscle again. Just what he'll be able to do is unclear, but they say no strenuous exercise or lifting.

Both times, the doctors said it was a freak occurance and rarely ever happens. When he pressed the doctor to explain how he could be unlucky enough to have this happen twice in 2 years, the doctor asked if he was taking any cholesterol medication, because some recent studies link the specific medication to this kind of muscle problem. Of course, he's been on this med for about 3 years now.

So that's all we know. How would he go about detremining whether or not the drug has anything to do with his muscle tears, and if so, how to act from there?
posted by b_thinky to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
 
He should contact a medical malpractice lawyer. It probably won't cost him anything for an initial consultation.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:53 PM on March 8, 2006


In order to sue, you're going to have to show some negligence on the part of the drug company. In the case of Vioxx the drug companies actually suppressed some studies that linked the drug to heart disease, before it turned out that yes, it really did cause heart disease.

They can't sue a drug company for simply being wrong, and not testing every single issue.

IANAL, though.
posted by Paris Hilton at 2:54 PM on March 8, 2006


The drug companies have deep pockets. I'd start with some Pubmed searches to see how frequently this occured. And just because your dad is taking a cholesterol medication doesn't mean that's the cause of it.
posted by gramcracker at 3:03 PM on March 8, 2006


Some of the anticholesterol medicines have hate groups attached to them. You might try contacting them. Googling "statins kill" and you'll get 327 pages. Also, not all statins are equal (much less other drugs).
I'm a pharmacologist and I think that some of it is urban legend, but looking at the major studies, statins are not the wonder drugs they are made out to be. In a couple of major studies (AFCAPS/TEXCAPS study, e.g.) the total deaths were higher in the statin group than in the placebo group, this was in spite of the fact that the cardiac deaths were down to a statistically significant degree.
Google statins and "muscle pull" even comes up with 416 hits. Of course not all of these hits are links of the two items, but shuffling through them some of them are.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:23 PM on March 8, 2006


In the case of Vioxx the drug companies actually suppressed some studies that linked the drug to heart disease

This is not true. Which goes to show that it may be possible to win a suit even if the drug company did nothing wrong.

In answer to the original question, it's easy enough to google for [name of drug] + lawsuit, and see which lawyers have paid $50 for the google ad. But do due diligence on the various lawyer options -- don't sign anything until you're satisfied that this is the lawyer you want taking your case.

Now that the doctor has told you of the possibility, the clock is running; some states have statutes of limitations as short as a year prohibiting suit.

Of course, the issue could be that the doctor knew of the studies, and didn't tell you of the side effect, in which case the fault resides with the doctor, and not the drug companies. Or it could be the doctor gave you a list of side effects, and it listed this rare possibility, and your father threw it away, in which case he shouldn't be suing anyone, though a clever lawyer can get around that.

Regardless, consult a lawyer, rather than MeFi.
posted by commander_cool at 3:25 PM on March 8, 2006


And also: Which cholesterol drug? You'd be hard pressed to make a case against one of the cholesterol resins. The statins, as I said before have a bad reputation from some. Some of the others besides the statins are considered problematic.
Oh, and in case it is Crestor. . .

http://www.druginjurylaw.com/Crestor-warning.html
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:27 PM on March 8, 2006


They can't sue a drug company for simply being wrong, and not testing every single issue.

You can sue a drug company (or any other company/person/whatever) at any time, for pretty much any reason.

Whether the lawsuit will result in judgment in the plaintiff's favour, however, is an entirely different story.

b_thinky: Get thee to a lawyer. If the case has some merit, chances are that the lawyer will take the case on a contingency basis.
posted by gwenzel at 3:28 PM on March 8, 2006


This type of suit is not worth significant amounts your time trying to do your own investigations or research. It's just way too complex for the average non-lawyer or non-drug-expert. Get yourself to a medical malpractice attorney, and they will do all of the legwork to determine whether or not you have a case. Any suit would be on a contingency fee basis, so it will cost you nothing.
posted by gatorae at 3:30 PM on March 8, 2006


you're going to have to show some negligence on the part of the drug company.
Not a lawyer, but it seems if your dad began taking a drug without understanding that there was a chance his muscles would snap off if he tried using them - that seems pretty negligent on behalf of his doctor and the drug company.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 3:30 PM on March 8, 2006


Paris Hilton is probably wrong. This is a product liability suit. Generally strict liability, which means negligence need not be shown. See a medical malpractice attorney right away. Don't go for the biggest ad in the book. Look for someone with a national reputation. This post does not constitute legal advice and you should seek a lawyer for a consultation.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:38 PM on March 8, 2006


Would it be of interest if there's actually something the matter with your dad, or are you just interested in the possibility of scamming a quick couple million bucks from an innocent party?
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:28 PM on March 8, 2006


Call the best lawyer in town tomorrow morning. Most won't charge anything until you collect, and if this is something that hasn't been brought before, AND could be against a big drug company, the lawyer will bust his ass to get a nice chunk of the multi-million dollar verdict.
posted by SuperNova at 7:25 PM on March 8, 2006


Morally, of course, please consider ikkyu2's advice before reading mine. If that works out well, then read on.
posted by SuperNova at 7:27 PM on March 8, 2006


Not a lawyer, but it seems if your dad began taking a drug without understanding that there was a chance his muscles would snap off if he tried using them - that seems pretty negligent on behalf of his doctor and the drug company.

This is entirely false, as far as doctors go. Doctors are not required to warn patients of all rare side effects/complications. I just attended a risk management talk on this very subject.
posted by gramcracker at 7:28 PM on March 8, 2006


but it seems if your dad began taking a drug without understanding that there was a chance his muscles would snap off if he tried using them - that seems pretty negligent on behalf of his doctor and the drug company.

False. But it is a really expeditious way to get fired with prejudice from your doc's practice. I think, personally, suing a pharmaceutical co. for this is as likely to come to fruition as trying to impregnate a pomegranate.

That said, quinolone antibiotics, IIRC, were/are associated with tendon rupture, i.e. Cipro, Levaquin, Avelox.
posted by docpops at 8:10 PM on March 8, 2006


Would it be of interest if there's actually something the matter with your dad

Ikkyu2, you're one of the (admitted) doctors on metafilter who has seemed most helpful and human around here. In this case, I think the comment was a little harsh. The poster mentioned that the doctor repeatedly told her father that it was a "freak" coincidence, and that the only possibility they mentioned was the medication. Everything about the poster suggested a tentative attempt at gathering _information_. In fact, she asked if there was a way to determine IF the medication could actually have caused this (reread the last sentence of the posted question).

By the way, I really appreciate your contributions around here.
posted by digitalis at 12:30 AM on March 9, 2006


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