Earlier this month in Centcor, Inc. v. Hamilton, No. 10-0223 (decided June 8, 2012), the Texas Supreme Court ruled for the first time that Texas's "learned intermediary" doctrine "generally applies within the context of the patient-physician relationship and allows a prescription drug manufacturer to fulfill its duty to warn end users of its product's potential risks by providing adequate warning to the prescribing physician," placing Texas "alongside the vast majority of other jurisdictions that have considered the issue." Perhaps more significantly, the Court rejected an exception to the learned intermediary doctrine created by the Texas court of appeals when a manufacturer has marketed the prescription drug through direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising.
In Centcor, plaintiff sued Centcor claiming that its drug Remicade was defective and unreasonably dangerous because it failed to provide adequate warnings and instructions, which caused plaintiff to suffer lupus-like syndrome. Additionally, during the course of plaintiff's treatment, plaintiff was shown an informational video about Remicade, which plaintiff alleged over-emphasized the benefits of Remicade and intentionally omitted warnings about the risk of lupus-like syndrome. Because the plaintiff was shown the video, which was provided by Centcor, plaintiff argued that the video bypassed the physician-patient relationship and required Centcor to warn plaintiff directly of Remicade's potential risks and side effects. At trial, the jury found in favor of plaintiff, and the trial court entered a judgment for approximately $4.6 million.
On appeal, Centcor argued that the trial court erred because plaintiff's claims were barred by the learned intermediary doctrine. In affirming a portion of the jury verdict, the Texas court of appeals created a DTC exception to the learned intermediary doctrine, never before recognized by Texas law, "when a drug manufacturer directly advertises to its consumers in a fraudulent manner," and held that "Centcor cannot rely on its adequate warnings to [plaintiff's] physicians when it directly misrepresented its product's dangerous propensities to [plaintiff]." Centcor appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
In reversing, the Court first noted that the learned intermediary doctrine does apply to prescription drugs, noting that its recognition of the doctrine puts Texas "in agreement with the overwhelming majority of other courts that have considered the learned intermediary doctrine and hold that, within the physician-patient relationship, the learned intermediary doctrine applies and generally limits the drug manufacturer's duty to warn to prescribing physicians." Having concluded that the learned intermediary doctrine generally limited a manufacturer's duty to warn prescribing physicians about a drug's risks, the Supreme Court next considered whether the court of appeals erred in adopting the DTC advertising exception. In holding that the court of appeals erred in creating a DTC advertising exception to the learned intermediary doctrine, the Court recognized that despite the increase in DTC advertising by pharmaceutical companies, the underlying rationale for the learned intermediary doctrine remained the same: "prescription drugs require a doctor's prescription and, therefore, doctors are best suited to communicate the risks and benefits of prescription medications for particular patients through their face-to-face interactions with those patients."