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In an issue set to come before the United States Supreme Court this fall, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine have weighed in. The case Wyeth v. Levine will be heard later this year and will decide the issue of whether the manufacturer of a drug approved by the FDA can be sued under state tort law for injuries caused by that drug. In an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court, the Journals’ editors state that lawsuits serve as "a vital deterrent" that protects consumers from drug companies: "The FDA alone simply lacks the ability to serve as the sole guarantor of drug safety. . . . the FDA would be stripped of an essential source of information that the agency has consistently relied on when making its regulatory decisions, and the American public would be deprived of a vital deterrent against phamaceutical company misconduct."

The resolution of Wyeth will have wide ranging effects for both consumer safety and the pharmaceutical industry. Not suprisingly, this issue is closely watched and highly politicized. The Bush administration supports drug manufacturer Wyeth’s position, while 47 state attorney general and two former FDA commissioners support Levine and an injured consumer’s ability to seek justice for drug manufacturer negligence and misconduct.

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