A dangerous drugs lawyer sits behind his desk in a Salt Lake City law office.

Around two-thirds of US adults, or about 131 million people, use prescription medications for a variety of ailments. For many, these medications can be lifesaving or provide relief from pain and other symptoms. While most prescription drugs produce an improvement in the patient’s condition, sometimes people have bad reactions. In less common situations, these adverse reactions can be severe or even life-threatening.

If you’ve experienced such a reaction, you may have concerns about your medication or what happened. An adverse event doesn’t necessarily mean that the drug itself is dangerous – everyone reacts differently to medications, and most drugs have some potential for serious side effects. However, it’s worth discussing your situation with a dangerous drugs lawyer to learn more.

How Can a Salt Lake City Dangerous Drugs Attorney Help If You Were Harmed by a Medication?

Your attorney can help you determine whether your medication was unreasonably dangerous. Under Utah law, this is an important part of any product liability claim. “Unreasonably dangerous” means that the product is more dangerous than the average consumer would expect based on what they know about it. Your lawyer will consider your case, the adverse reaction you suffered, the drug facts that come with the medication, and other factors to evaluate whether the medication you took was unreasonably dangerous. They will also investigate the cause of the problem so they can decide which of three categories your case falls into:

Design Defect

A design defect is an inherent problem with the product, in this case, a drug. Often the medication works in a way that addresses one health problem but could cause another. It can be hard to know if your medication has a design defect because all medications have some risk of side effects. However, if the drug creates a risk that is unreasonable compared to its benefits, and the drug cannot be formulated in a way that eliminates this risk, then there may be a drug defect.

One example is the drug Vioxx, an arthritis medication touted for having a lower risk of gastrointestinal side effects than older drugs like naproxen. Unfortunately, it was designed to work in a way that changed the balance of two key enzymes that control blood clotting, which ultimately led to an increased risk of heart attack or strokes. More than 60,000 people filed lawsuits against Vioxx’s manufacturer, Merck, most of which were settled in multi-district legislation (MDL) for a total of $4.85 billion dollars.

In Utah, design defect cases require demonstrating that there was a safer way to design the drug to avoid unreasonable risk. Your lawyer will probably use expert witnesses to explain the defect in the drug and how it could have been designed in a safer way.

Manufacturing Defect

In the case of a manufacturing defect, there is nothing wrong with the design of the drug, but something went awry in the production process. When this happens, usually only certain lots are affected, and the manufacturer can recall these lots. The affected drugs are frequently contaminated with bacteria, other drugs, chemicals, or even pieces of metal or glass. Unfortunately, if you received and used one of these medications before it was recalled, you could suffer serious health effects.

To prove a manufacturing defect case, your lawyer will work to show that there was a manufacturing problem that caused certain batches of the medication to be unreasonably dangerous. They will also need to provide evidence that the defect was in the medication at the time it was sold and that this defect caused your injuries. The last point is often the most difficult and complicated to prove, and again your attorney may use medical experts and other types of evidence to support your case.

Failure to Warn

Not all risks associated with medications are unreasonably dangerous to the point that the drug should be removed from the market. As we discussed earlier, all drugs have some risk of side effects. Many commonly-prescribed drugs carry at least a low risk of potentially serious side effects. However, the manufacturer has a responsibility to make patients and prescribers aware of these risks so they can be considered and, in some cases, mitigated. For example, a drug that slightly increases the risk of heart attack or stroke might still be relatively safe for most patients. Still, people with other risk factors for these conditions might want to consider another treatment.

The problem arises when patients and their doctors aren’t made aware of the risks. If your doctor doesn’t know that a medication carries specific risks, they can’t adequately decide on the best treatment option for you.

Failure to warn cases often coincides with design defects. The makers of Vioxx, for instance, suspected there could be cardiovascular risks from the start due to the nature of the drug. They carefully designed studies on the drug that used patients with a low risk of cardiovascular disease who only took the drug for short periods of time, concealing the risk. When concerns did come to light, Merck claimed that other drugs had a protective effect on the heart rather than Vioxx causing a higher risk of heart problems. Eventually, the company added a warning about cardiovascular side effects before ultimately withdrawing the drug from the market. But by then, tens of thousands of people had suffered strokes and heart attacks while using Vioxx.

In Utah, people pursuing a failure to warn case must demonstrate that the manufacturer didn’t provide adequate warning when the drug was sold. With dangerous drug cases, this usually rests on the information provided to the patient with the prescription and the provider’s information. You will also need to show that this lack of warning made the drug unreasonably dangerous and was the cause of your injuries. 

Depending on the situation, sometimes it may be easier to prove a failure to warn case than a design defect case, although in other circumstances, it may be possible to prove both.

How Do You Know If You’ve Been Affected by a Dangerous Drug?

If you’ve taken a drug that was later recalled or whose manufacturer added additional warnings, it’s a good idea to speak with a dangerous drugs lawyer, even if you haven’t yet suffered a serious problem. In some cases, the risk may continue even after stopping the medication. (You should never stop taking a medication before discussing it with your doctor.)

If there hasn’t been a recall, it can be more difficult to know whether you’ve been affected. Some drugs stay on the market for years before problems are identified and addressed – especially if the manufacturer took steps to hide the issues. Here are some concerning situations you should look out for:

  • Have you experienced serious symptoms that are hard to diagnose or treat while taking a medication? Not every unexplained symptom is a sign of a dangerous drug. Still, if you’ve seen multiple doctors and can’t get a firm diagnosis, you may want to research the medications you’re taking and learn if others have had similar problems.
  • Did you suffer a serious health complication that is rare in general or unusual in your demographic? For example, if you were young and healthy when you suffered a stroke, that would be unusual, as strokes are most common in older adults. It would be even more remarkable if your doctors couldn’t find any cause for the stroke, like a genetic clotting disorder.
  • Did you have persistent symptoms that responded poorly to treatment but improved after you stopped taking the medication? Again, don’t stop your medication until you’ve cleared it with your doctor.
  • Have you suffered any severe health condition that your doctors couldn’t explain? This doesn’t necessarily mean a dangerous drug harmed you, but it’s worth considering.

What Damages Can You Seek in a Dangerous Drugs Case?

If your lawyer finds evidence that you were harmed by a dangerous drug, they can help you puruse damages, including the following:

  • Medical costs. You can seek compensation for any medical care costs related to your adverse reaction, including costs of future care and rehabilitation.
  • Lost income. If you couldn’t work for some time or are now permanently unable to work, we can seek compensation for your lost income or earning potential.
  • Pain and suffering. This includes physical pain and emotional distress or negative effects on your mental health.
  • Reduced quality of life. If you’ve suffered a loss of consortium or companionship, an inability to do your favorite activities, or other losses to your quality of life, we can pursue damages.
  • Wrongful death. If you lose a loved one due to the effects of a dangerous drug, we can seek damages such as final medical expenses, burial or funeral costs, loss of financial support, loss of companionship, and more.

[H2] Get Help From Our Salt Lake City Dangerous Drugs Law Firm

Please contact Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers at 801-810-9999 for a free consultation if you suspect a dangerous drug harmed you or a loved one. We’ll evaluate your case, do more research if needed, answer your questions, and explain the options for pursuing compensation.

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