Justia Health Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Supreme Court
Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Md.
Petitioner filed suit, alleging that his employer, the Maryland Court of Appeals, an instrumentality of the State, violated the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2612(a)(1). The provision at issue required employers, including state employers, to grant unpaid leave for self care for a serious medical condition, provided other statutory requisites were met, particularly requirements that the total amount of annual leave taken under all the FMLA's provisions did not exceed a stated maximum. The Court held that suits against States under the self-care provision, section 2612(a)(1), were barred by the States' immunity as sovereigns in the federal system. Therefore, the Court affirmed the judgment of the Fourth Circuit. View "Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Md." on Justia Law
Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc.
The patent claims at issue covered processes that help doctors who use thiopurine drugs to treat patients with autoimmune diseases determine whether a given dosage level was too low or too high. The claims purported to apply natural laws describing the relationships between the concentration in the blood of certain thiopurine metabolites and the likelihood that the drug dosage would be ineffective or induce harmful side-effects. At issue was whether the claimed processes have transformed these unpatentable natural laws into patent-eligible applications of those laws. The Court concluded that they have not done so and that therefore the processes were not patentable. The steps in the claimed processes involved well-understood, routine, conventional activity previously engaged in by researchers in the field. At the same time, upholding the patents would risk disproportionately tying up the use of the underlying natural laws, inhibiting their use in the making of further discoveries. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of the Federal Circuit. View "Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law
PLIVA, Inc., et al. v. Mensing; Actavis Elizabeth, LLC v. Mensing; Actavis, Inc., v. Demahy
These consolidated lawsuits involved state tort law claims based on certain drug manufacturers' alleged failure to provide adequate warning labels for the generic drug metoclopramide. State tort law required a manufacturer that was, or should be, aware of its drug's danger to label it in a way that rendered it reasonably safe. On the other hand, federal drug regulations, as interpreted by the FDA, prevented the manufacturers from independently changing their generic drug safety labels. At issue was whether such federal drug regulations applicable to generic drug manufacturers directly conflicted with, and thus preempted, the state law claims. The Court concluded that the federal drug regulations preempted the state law claims because, if manufacturers had independently changed their labels to satisfy their state law duty to attach a safer label to their generic metoclopramide, they would have violated the federal requirement that generic drug labels be the same as the corresponding brand-name drug labels. Thus, it was impossible for the manufacturers to comply with federal and state law. Even if the manufacturers had fulfilled their federal duty to ask for FDA help in strengthening the corresponding brand-name labels, assuming such a duty existed, they would not have satisfied their state tort law duty. State law demanded a safer label, it did not require communication with the FDA about the possibility of a safer label. Therefore, the Court held that when a party could not satisfy its state duties without the Federal Government's special permission and assistance, which was dependent on the exercise of judgment by a federal agency, that party could not independently satisfy those state duties for preemption purposes. The Court also noted that Congress and the FDA retained authority to change the law and regulations if they so desired. Accordingly, the case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
Sorrell, et al. v. IMS Health Inc., et al.
Vermont's Prescription Confidentiality Law, Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 18, 4631(d), restricted the sale, disclosure, and use of pharmacy records that revealed the prescribing practices of individual doctors. Respondents, Vermont data miners and an association of brand-name drug manufacturers, sought declaratory and injunctive relief against state officials, contending that section 4631(d) violated their rights under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. At issue was whether section 4631(d) must be tested by heightened judicial scrutiny and, if so, whether Vermont could justify the law. The Court held that the Vermont Statute, which imposed content-based and speaker-based burdens on protected expression, was subject to heightened judicial scrutiny. The Court also held that Vermont's justifications for section 4631(d) did not withstand such heightened scrutiny and therefore, affirmed the Second Circuit's judgment that section 4631(d) unconstitutionally burdened the speech of pharmaceutical marketers and data miners without adequate justification.