When pharmaceutical companies write the labels for a new drug, they don’t write them for ordinary people. They write them for doctors and others with scientific background. That’s why they’re so science-heavy and full of jargon.
When you file a product liability lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company, the odds are that you’re filing a failure-to-warn lawsuit. But the person you’re alleging wasn’t properly warned isn’t YOU, it’s your doctor.
The learned intermediary doctrine is a legal term that basically means that pharmaceuticals have to convey accurate and nonmisleading information to doctors, not to patients. You see, because you can’t get a prescription drug without seeing a doctor, the law says that it’s the doctor’s responsibility to make sure that the drug is right for you. If a pharmaceutical company accurately communicates the risk of a drug to a doctor, that doctor is supposed to determine whether the benefit of you taking that drug outweighs the risk.
Personally, I think the learned intermediary doctrine is crap. Every day you and I see commercials for some new wonder-drug. If we go into the doctor’s office and ask him or her for a prescription, he or she will probably give it to us if it appears we might benefit from it. He or she won’t review our entire medical file, then scrutinize the drug’s warning label, then engage in a reasoned risk-benefit analysis. It therefore seems to me that the question should be whether a pharmaceutical company adequately warns CONSUMERS, and not just their doctors.