DRUG WAR

Courts Say Companies Can Be Sued

Pharmaceutical companies took a major judicial hit on Wednesday when the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that injured users of their products could sue them for damages in state courts. The lawsuit pitted a Vermont man who lost an arm after being injected with an anti-nausea drug against the drug's manufacturer, Wyeth. The company tried to argue that because its drug had been approved beforehand by the federal Food and Drug Administration that it shouldn't be liable for any damages, a sweeping claim that would have protected pharmaceutical manufacturers from a host of future lawsuits. The manufacturers of Vioxx, Merck, paid out $4.85 billion in a settlement in 2007 over side effects from its painkiller, for example, and a spokesperson for the company said they were disappointed by Wednesday's decision, which might have shielded them from similar suits.