The California Supreme Court has announced that patients or their family members can sue manufacturer Bristol-Myers for falsely advertising the benefits of the blood-thinning drug Plavix, although the company and most of the plaintiffs are based in other states.
In multiple class action lawsuits, plaintiffs have alleged that the Bristol-Myers Squibb falsely advertised Plavix’s effectiveness in preventing stroke, heart attack, and other heart problems, while not addressing the risks of the drug, the Northern California Record reports.
Patients allege that taking Plavix could result in heart attack, stroke, cerebral hemorrhaging, gastrointestinal bleeding and even death.
“Plavix is designed to prevent blood clots in people who have recently suffered a heart attack or stroke, as well as those suffering from certain heart or blood vessel disorders,” SFGate reports. “However, research has suggested that, in some patients, the drug may increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke – the conditions it was designed to prevent.”
According to SFGate, the 4-3 court ruling would allow a nationwide lawsuit by 86 Californians and 592 residents of 33 other states to proceed in San Francisco Superior Court, as long as the state Supreme Court decision is not overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court first.
Plavix may increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes and Bristol-Myers has failed to disclose those dangers while promoting the drug’s safety, SFGate reports. “The plaintiffs say they have suffered internal bleeding and other damage, and additional heart attacks and strokes.” Eighteen of the cases were brought by relatives of patients who have died.
Attorneys representing Bristol-Myers Squibb argue that this ruling conflicts with a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said Daimler Chrysler car company could not be sued in California over alleged abuses in Argentina.
Reuters explains that the Daimler case argued that one of Daimler’s subsidiaries, Mercedes Benz Argentina, had collaborated with state security forces to kidnap, detain, torture and kill the plaintiffs or their close relatives, who were employees of Mercedes Benz Argentina, during Argentina’s military dictatorship, which ruled from 1976-1983. In a 9-0 ruling, the justices said companies that do substantial business in the United States may be be sued there.
In this most current ruling, the state court majority argued that Bristol-Myers Squibb does considerable business with California: the company has five research and laboratory offices, 250 salespeople. From 2006 through 2012, Plavix sales to Californians totaled nearly $918 million.
Plaintiffs who allege they suffered injuries from Plavix say they prefer to have a single case in a state such as California, where judges and attorneys are well versed in product liability cases.
In a related development, in September New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit against Bristol-Myers Squibb for falsely marketing Plavix as safe. The lawsuit alleges that Plavix may have actually increased the risk of internal bleeding for some patients. For such patients, Plavix does not prevent heart attacks, strokes or vascular death, but instead increases the risk of internal bleeding and other complications, according to Law360. The New Mexico lawsuit further alleges that Bristol-Myers Squibb and other defendants concealed those facts from the medical community and the public in order to boost Plavix sales.