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Arizona Supreme Court Adopts Learned Intermediary Doctrine

In Watts v. Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp., 2016 WL 237777 (Jan. 21, 2016), the Arizona Supreme Court adopted the learned intermediary doctrine. Arizona is now the 37th state where the legislature or highest court has adopted in the doctrine.

Watts involved the prescription acne medication Solodyn. The manufacturer’s label explicitly warned that long-term use of Solodyn had been associated with drug-induced lupus. Plaintiff Amanda Watts developed lupus after two long-term courses of Solodyn. The trial court dismissed her suit based on the learned intermediary doctrine, but the Arizona Court of Appeals, finding the policy rationale for the doctrine no longer persuasive, vacated the trial court’s judgment.

The Arizona Supreme Court reversed:

“Under the learned intermediary doctrine (“LID”), a manufacturer satisfies its duty to warn end users by giving appropriate warnings to the specialized class of persons who may prescribe or administer the product. We hold today that the LID generally applies to a prescription drug manufacturer.”

Watts, 2016 WL 237777 at *1. The Watts court recognized the continued validity of the policy rationale supporting the doctrine, observing, “The premise for the LID is that certain types of goods (such as prescription drugs) are complex and vary in effect, depending on the end user’s unique circumstances, and therefore can be obtained only through a qualified intermediary like a prescribing physician, who can evaluate the patient’s condition and weight the risks and benefits.” Watts, 2016 WL 237777 at *3.

With the Watts decision, Arizona also joined a growing majority of courts adopting the learned intermediary doctrine as stated in Section 6(d) of the Restatement (Third) of Torts. Watts, 2016 WL 237777 at *3.

The Watts v. Medicis opinion can be read here.

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