Generic drug safety argued at high court

Federal law requires generic drug makers to provide identical ingredients, warnings, and labels as brand-name products.

Story highlights

  • Case involves woman who had a serious reaction to a generic drug
  • Supreme Court reveals little about how it might rule in the case
  • Generic drugs account for an estimated 80 percent of all prescriptions
  • Drug company says it cannot comply with both federal and state demands
Karen Bartlett walked gingerly down the marble steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, guided on the arms of her lawyer. She is legally blind, the result of a serious reaction to a generic drug.
Her medical condition was debated before the justices, testing whether federal law prevents her multi-million-dollar "design-defect" judgment against the pharmaceutical company from standing up in state court.
A cautious bench revealed little about how it will rule in this closely watched case.
Generic drugs account for an estimated 80 percent of all prescriptions and patient-rights advocates say companies should be held accountable for unsafe, poorly made products regardless of whether they are brand name or generic.