The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), clinical trials, and testing should ensure consumers receive medications that are safe and effective. While most prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications are safe, some have led to serious side effects and permanent health issues.

As a result, some victims have joined class action lawsuits against drug manufacturers that failed to warn about certain risks or dangerous side effects. If you or someone you love suffered from a serious health issue linked to a medication, you should consider taking legal action.

It can be hard to know if joining a pharmaceutical class action lawsuit is in your best interest, especially if you’ve suffered through pain or loss. A qualified attorney can offer insight and guidance for whether you should join a class action suit.

Understanding Class-Action Lawsuits Against Pharmaceutical Companies

Pharmaceutical lawsuits are sometimes referred to as “bad drug” lawsuits. Bad drug lawsuits argue a defective medication caused unintended harm to a patient or patients seeking damages.

A pharmaceutical class action lawsuit is when a group of people affected by the same drug come together to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer. This suggests the scope of the drug’s harm is far-reaching and has caused suffering in numerous people’s lives.

As a result, a class action lawsuit fights for a group of people who are collectively represented by a single member of the group, or one or more law firms.

If you become part of a class action lawsuit, you won’t pay any legal fees upfront. Your attorneys will be paid at the end of the case by collecting a percentage of the settlement.

Consider some examples of pharmaceutical class action lawsuits:

Prescription Drug Class Action Lawsuits

Prescription drugs encompass a wide range of medications. If you’ve suffered a serious illness from taking a prescription drug, then you may not be alone. Others may have suffered and joined a class action lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company.

Some prescription drug class action lawsuits include:

Elmiron Lawsuit

Elmiron is a prescription drug used to treat interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome (PDS) is a disease which causes painful inflammation of the bladder/pelvis, in addition to ulcers and bleeding. The lawsuit claims that use of the drug can lead to maculopathy, an eye disorder which can lead to vision loss and blindness.

Valsartan Lawsuit

Valsartan treats high blood pressure and requires a prescription. The current lawsuit claims that several batches of valsartan were contaminated with substances that caused liver, kidney, or stomach cancer. Other medications that contain valsartan have been recalled.

Zostavax Lawsuit

Zostavazx is a vaccine used to prevent shingles. This class action claim is against Merck, a drug manufacturer that failed to warn doctors and patients that this vaccine can cause shingles.

Tenofovir Lawsuit

Tenofovir is a prescription medication used to treat HIV and hepatitis B infections. This medication led to kidney disease and bone injuries in some patients. Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer, was aware of the risk but never removed it from the market.

Pradaxa Lawsuit

Pradaxa is a blood thinner that treats blood clots and prevents stroke. This prescription drug was unfortunately linked to an overwhelming number of severe bleeding cases, including several fatalities. There have been many wrongful death lawsuits filed against drug manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim because of Pradaxa.

Viberzi Lawsuit

This medication treats diarrhea and abdominal pain for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The lawsuit stems from a failure to warn patients and doctors that people missing their gallbladder are at risk of pancreatitis. The FDA was made aware of over 100 reports of patients who contracted pancreatitis as a result of Viberzi.

Jardiance Lawsuit

Jardiance helps lower blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. This prescription drug, along with Farixga, can increase the risk of contracting Fournier’s Gangrene. The lawsuits claim that the drug manufacturer failed to warn patients about this risk.

Over-The-Counter (OTC) Class Action Lawsuits

Although many pharmaceutical class action lawsuits involve prescription drugs, other medications involved in litigation are available over-the-counter (OTC). A couple OTC medications with class action lawsuits include:

Zantac Lawsuit

Zantac is a medication designed to treat and prevent heartburn. It may also treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and stomach ulcers. Zantac was reported to be contaminated with a substance that causes cancer. The lawsuit alleges drug makers Sanofi and Boehringer Ingelheim should have known about this cancer-causing chemical.

Antidepressant Class Action Lawsuits

Antidepressants are another type of prescription drug involved in class action lawsuits. Some reported side effects of antidepressants include increased suicidal ideation and behavior in adults, teens, and children.

Lawsuits have also claimed birth defects from mothers taking antidepressants, including brain and skull defects, respiratory distress, and persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) in newborns.

Some brand name antidepressants associated with lawsuits include:

Types Of Pharmaceutical Class Action Lawsuits

If there is a class action lawsuit against a drug manufacturer, then the legal team is likely using tactics similar to other product liability lawsuits. You and your attorney will need to show the medication had one or more of the following defects:

1. Marketing Defects

A marketing defect for prescription medications is also known as a failure-to-warn claim. This could refer to insufficient instructions on a drug label, inadequate safety warnings, or general flaws in marketing practices or tactics.

For example, a prescription medication may have been marketed to treat a condition it had never been tested for. In some cases, such reckless or aggressive marketing has led to serious health consequences.

2. Dangerous Side Effects (Design Defect)

A design defect refers to when a drug is appropriately manufactured but comes with too many unwanted side effects that make its use unsafe. As a result, the medication is considered dangerous and defective. Design defects can also involve medical devices.

3. Manufacturing Defects

This type of lawsuit involves some kind of mistake in the manufacturing process. The overall design of the drug is effective and the marketing is fair, but the ingredients were tainted or another problem occurred when the drug was made.

Who Is Held Liable In A Pharmaceutical Class Action Lawsuit?

As the above lawsuits show, drug manufacturers can be held liable for their products that caused harm among patients. However, the entire chain of the drug’s distribution may be held liable. This could be any individual or entity that was involved in the time that the drug was manufactured to the time a patient filled a prescription.

Those liable in pharmaceutical class action lawsuits include:

Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

These are generally massive corporations because of the ever-growing market for prescription drugs. Although this means plaintiffs can collect significant damages, big pharmaceutical companies will likely have hordes of powerful attorneys on retainer to fight against a claim.

Testing Laboratories

A testing laboratory is responsible for conducting a series of tests before the drug lands on the market. If these laboratories are separate from the manufacturer, they could be held liable in certain cases.

Pharmaceutical Sales Reps

Big pharma companies employ sales representatives to sell their drugs to doctors and medical professionals. These reps may make recommendations for how to prescribe and use the drug and are incentivized to make as many sales as possible. They may be held liable if the medication they sold caused injury or harm.


Doctors or physicians prescribing bad drugs may also be held liable. They are a crucial part of the chain of distribution and can be held legally responsible for failing to warn you about any known risks or side effects associated with the medication.


The pharmacy is where most people go to finally obtain the medication. If the pharmacist failed to instruct you on safe way to use the medication, and it resulted in an injury of some kind, then the pharmacist may be held liable for damages.

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Legally reviewed by: Shaun M. Cummings, B.C.S. August 31, 2021