A 2017 Food-Court Resolution: End Regulation-through-Litigation Crusade Against Trans Fat

Partially hydrogenated oil chemical structure

Partially hydrogenated oil
chemical structure

In 2016, class-action lawsuits alleging that a processed food product or its labeling violated state consumer-protection laws continued to clog the federal courts, especially in California. The number of new food-related consumer class actions filed last year nearly equaled the number filed in 2015, according to a report in Food Navigator USA. It’s unclear whether these trends will hold in 2017, but there is one set of blatantly frivolous claims that should disappear this year: those that seek judicial regulation of products that contain partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), the main source of trans fat. A December 13, 2016 Southern District of California decision should frustrate such claims in the short term, and a forthcoming US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision in a pending case may (and should) end them permanently. Continue reading

Should Pharmaceutical Manufacturers be Forced to Produce a Product Against Their Will?

5th-aAs the beginning of a new administration nears, politicians and pundits have been floating many ideas for regulating the cost and availability of pharmaceuticals and other medical treatments. One of the worst ideas being discussed is the judicial creation of a common-law duty to manufacture. Thankfully, there are significant Constitutional and judicial hurdles preventing this duty from materializing.

In order to develop and produce innovative, life-saving drugs, pharmaceutical manufacturers must go through incredibly expensive and time-consuming clinical trials required by the rigid guidelines of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As an incentive to go through this process, these companies receive patents to help them recoup the costs of the clinical trials. In some instances, however, even with market exclusivity, manufacturers are unwilling to continue producing these drugs, often because production ceases to be economically feasible. Continue reading

Friday Finger on the Pulse: From Our Blogroll and Beyond

  • Class-action defendants can learn much from plaintiff-leaning law-review article on “statistical adjudication” after Tysons Food v. Bouaphakeo (Class Action Countermeasures)
  • By the Justice Department’s own measure of success, its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act “pilot program” is failing (FCPA Professor)
  • The case for why FTC, not FCC, should regulate internet privacy (Truth on the Market)
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau joins the ranks of government censors with proposed gag rule on investigation targets (Overlawyered)
  • Online database IMDb.com files First Amendment challenge against California law banning inclusion of actors’ ages, citing rights of customers to receive information (Hollywood Reporter)
  • Suit claiming air emissions that fall to the ground constitute hazardous waste under Superfund proves too ambitious even for the Ninth Circuit (Marten Law Newsletter)
  • A new regulatory paradigm for SEC in 2017? (California Corporate & Securities Law via ProfessorBainbridge.com)
  • Competitors and whistleblowers will be the likely beneficiaries of FDA’s new online regulatory misconduct reporting tool (FDA Law Blog)

WLF Testifies at FDA Public Meeting on Off-Label Speech

FDA

Today, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold a long-awaited public meeting to consider how off-label information about medicines can be shared with physicians. Washington Legal Foundation staff attorney Greg Herbers will testify at the meeting, which FDA has entitled “Communications Regarding Unapproved Uses of Approved Medical Products.”

Since WLF’s landmark victories in the Washington Legal Foundation cases, courts have consistently upheld the First Amendment right to communicate truthful and non-misleading information about the off-label uses of medical products.  For instance, in US v. Caronia, WLF represented an industry employee convicted of discussing a drug’s off-label benefits and won a reversal from the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on First Amendment grounds.   WLF filed an amicus brief in a second case, Amarin Pharma v. FDA, in which a US federal district court followed the rationale of Caronia.  Those decisions presumably played a major part in FDA’s decision to reevaluate its approach to off-label communication.

The text of WLF’s testimony is available here.  WLF will also submit written comments to FDA in December.

Pfizer False Claims Victory May Embolden Other Pharma Defendants

By Todd Hobbs, Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation and a rising third-year student at Texas Tech University School of Law

2nd CircuitIn May, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the dismissal of a qui tam lawsuit in U.S. ex rel. Polansky v. Pfizer, Inc.  Polansky, a former Pfizer Medical Director, brought suit under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) on behalf of the U.S. government. He alleged that Pfizer submitted a false claim for Medicare payment by illegally marketing its product for an off-label use.  The Second Circuit held that the complaint at issue failed to allege any off-label promotion and affirmed the district court’s dismissal on that basis.  Federal appeals courts have not considered many FCA lawsuits related to off-label marketing allegations, making the Polansky result worth closer review.

Continue reading

WLF’s Annual End-of-Term Review Assesses Key Supreme Court Free-Enterprise Decisions

The U.S. Supreme Court: October 2015 Term Review

Speakers: The Honorable Jay Stephens, Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Andrew J. Pincus, Mayer Brown LLP; Elizabeth P. Papez, Winston & Strawn LLP; Jeffrey B. Wall, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Our speakers discussed Court rulings in the areas of class actions, arbitration, the federal False Claims Act, intellectual property, federal regulation, and property rights.

The Supreme Court’s “Universal Health” Ruling: A Net Win for Federal Government Contractors

supreme courtThe U.S. Supreme Court’s June 16, 2016 decision in a closely watched False Claims Act (FCA) case, Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, had a little bit in it for everyone.  It held (as had most of the federal appeals courts) that a contractor can be held liable under the FCA for making a fraudulent claim for payment from the federal government, even if the claim was never expressly made but was merely implied.  On the other hand, Universal Health unanimously vacated a First Circuit ruling that had reinstated the plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the First Circuit applied an insufficiently rigorous test for determining whether the defendant’s allegedly false claims were “material.”

So which side really “won” the case?  If the correct answer to that question turns on whether the Court’s decision will make it more difficult for private relators to prevail in future FCA cases, then the decision was a win for FCA defendants.  For example, the Court unequivocally rejected assertions—frequently raised by FCA plaintiffs—that an FCA claim is proven any time a contractor submits a claim for payment of a contractual claim despite awareness that it has breached a significant provision of its contract. Continue reading