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Woman With Lupus Can Sue Drugmaker Medicis

PHOENIX (CN) - A young woman with lupus can advance claims that a drugmaker failed to tell her about the long-term risks of the acne medicine Solodyn, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled.

Amanda Watts sued Scottsdale-based Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation in 2012, a year after she turned 18, in Maricopa County Superior Court.

She claimed that the manufacturer had never warned her that prolonged use of Solodyn could cause autoimmune syndromes, drug-induced lupus-like syndrome, autoimmune hepatitis, vasculitis and serum sickness.

Watts was allegedly diagnosed in 2010 with drug-induced lupus and drug-induced hepatitis, conditions that she blames on her use of Solodyn. Though Watts recovered from the hepatitis, she still suffers from lupus, which can be a lifelong disease.

She told the court that she took the prescribed medication for 20 weeks in 2008 and an additional 20 weeks in 2010 to treat chronic acne. The literature Watts received about the drug allegedly said nothing about such autoimmune diseases.

While the full prescribing information for Solodyn warns that lupus-like syndrome and autoimmune hepatitis could result from the long-term use of minocycline, the drug's active ingredient, Watts said that she never received this information.

The trial court dismissed Watts' claims for consumer fraud and product liability, but a appellate panel unanimously revived the case on Jan. 29.

Medicis failed to sway the court, according to the ruling, that prescription drugs are not "merchandise" as defined by the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act (CFA).

"Although a medical professional must first issue a prescription in order for a consumer to obtain certain drugs, consumers discuss medications with their medical providers and may express preferences based on advertising," Judge John Gemmill wrote for a three-person panel. "Consumers also have a meaningful choice whether to purchase and use particular drugs once prescribed. As a result, consumers may be deceived through fraudulent misrepresentations in connection with the sale of prescription drugs just as in the sale of traditional consumer goods."

Likewise Medicis is ineligible to defense under the "learned intermediary doctrine," which frees manufacturers from failure-to-warn liability in cases where it had already warned a middleman - in this case a physician.

Gemmill said that doctrine contradicts the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act that Arizona adopted after the learned intermediary doctrine, holding a "defendant in a tort case ... liable for his or her own respective share of fault, no more and no less."

"This conclusion is further supported by the realities of modern-day pharmaceutical marketing," the 15-page opinion states. "As Watts points out, drug manufacturers are turning with increasing frequency to direct consumer advertising to promote their products."

The same year that Watts sued, Medicis faced similar claims from a young woman in New Jersey who allegedly developed serious liver damage after taking Solodyn.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, based in Canada, purchased Medicis in December 2012.

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