Bad Medicine: Prescription Drugs, Preemption, and the Potential for a No-Fault Fix


For decades, federal regulation of pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices has worked hand in hand with state tort claims to protect the health and safety of the American public. Now, a new trend toward preemption endangers this scheme. In recent years, the Supreme Court has given increasing deference to agency assertions about their preemptive authority and has found preemption in an increasing number of cases. In the process, the Supreme Court has preempted claims for medical device injuries and left claims for pharmaceutical harms in a precarious position. The elimination of common law claims for drug and device harms will leave holes in the FDA’s regulatory scheme, endangering the health and safety of Americans. It will also prevent ordinary Americans from seeking compensation for their injuries – even those injuries caused by manufacturer malfeasance. This Article proposes that Congress create a no-fault compensation scheme for drugs and medical devices to close these gaps. Such a scheme could be both practical and politically possible, satisfying manufacturers, tort reformers, patients, and plaintiffs’ lawyers alike.

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