In a recent decision, the California Supreme Court ruled that patients or their family members can sue drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb for falsely advertising the benefits of the blood-thinning drug Plavix, although the company and most of the plaintiffs are based in other states.
Plaintiffs in a number of class action lawsuits have alleged that Bristol-Myers Squibb falsely advertised Plavix’s effectiveness in preventing stroke, heart attack, and other heart problems but did not address the risks posed by the drug, the Northern California Record reports.
Plaintiffs allege that taking Plavix (clopidogrel) can result in heart attack, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, gastrointestinal bleeding and death.
“Plavix is designed to prevent blood clots in people who have recently suffered a heart attack or stroke, as well as those suffering from certain heart or blood vessel disorders,” SFGate reports. “However, research has suggested that, in some patients, the drug may increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke – the conditions it was designed to prevent.”
The 4-3 court ruling would allow a nationwide lawsuit to proceed in San Francisco Superior Court, as long as the state court’s decision is not overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Eighty-six plaintiffs in the lawsuit are California residents, 592 plaintiffs are residents of 33 other states, SFGate reports.
According to SFGate, Bristol-Myers has failed to disclose that Plavix may increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes and has promoted the drug as safe and effective. “The plaintiffs say they have suffered internal bleeding and other damage, and additional heart attacks and strokes.” Eighteen of the cases were brought by relatives of patients who have died.
Attorneys representing Bristol-Myers Squibb argue that the California ruling conflicts with a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said car maker Daimler Chrysler could not be sued in California over alleged abuses in Argentina. In the Daimler case, according to Reuters, attorneys argued that Daimler’s subsidiary Mercedes Benz Argentina had collaborated with state security forces to kidnap, detain, torture and kill the plaintiffs or their close relatives, who were employees of Mercedes Benz Argentina, during Argentina’s military dictatorship. The dictatorship extended from 1976-1983. In a 9-0 ruling, the justices said companies must do substantial business in the United States to be sued here.
The California court majority argued that Bristol-Myers Squibb did considerable business with California: the company has five research and laboratory offices and 250 salespeople. From 2006 through 2012, Plavix sales to Californians totaled nearly $918 million.
In September 2016, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit against Bristol-Myers Squibb over the safety of Plavix. The lawsuit alleges that Plavix may have actually increased the risk of internal bleeding for some patients. For these patients, Plavix does not prevent heart attacks, strokes or vascular death, but instead increases the risk of internal bleeding and other complications, according to Law360. The New Mexico lawsuit further alleges Bristol-Myers Squibb and other defendants concealed the risks from the medical community and the public in order to boost Plavix sales.