Product Distributors Liable For Withholding Drugs From Hospitals

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In New Jersey and New York, products liability cases generally involve claims of negligence for breaching a duty of care that results in the injury of another. Medication manufactured negligently could result in claims by patients who suffered personal injury upon taking the drug. But what about product distributors and retailers who intentionally create drug shortages solely for profit reasons? Can those distributors be sued for negligence if a patient does not receive necessary medication due to the shortage and suffers injury as a result? The ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is currently probing this type of price-gouging and has requested detailed information from one “gray marketer” supplier that has already run afoul of the law.

The Congressman has demanded that the company, along with three others that have already cooperated, disclose where they were purchasing drugs said to be in short supply. The Congressman also wants to know what the supplier has paid for the drugs and what the supplier has been charging hospitals. Initially, the company said it would comply but is now refusing telephone calls from the Congressman’s office. Over the last few years, this particular drug supplier has been fined for keeping inaccurate records of its sales, delivery, and receipt of controlled substances. It has also been accused of selling deliberately misbranded drugs and of buying prescription drugs in Colorado from wholesalers in other states not authorized to do business in the state.

In September, 15 deaths were reportedly blamed on a hospital shortage of drugs. The deaths occurred either because the appropriate medication was not available or the substitute medication was negligently made. In one case, nine people died when a batch of IV liquid nitrogen was prepared by hand and accidentally contaminated.

The simple fact is that drug shortages have resulted in unnecessary deaths. Some of those deaths may be attributed to medical malpractice, others to products liability. Other deaths may be attributed to both. Those individuals and families in Passaic County who may have suffered or been injured due to medical malpractice or a claim of products liability have a right to ask questions, just as they have a right to answers. People who have been injured as a result of reckless or negligent withholding of drugs may be entitled to monetary compensation for their pain and suffering. In any case, to hold the right parties accountable, individuals and families will likely seek all legal means possible to bring a strong case to court.

Source: Associated Press, “Congressman demands info from ‘gray’ drug marketer,” Nov. 03, 2011

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