For those readers of MassTortDefense following the Levine v. Wyeth matter, here is the BRIEF FOR THE UNITED STATES AS AMICUS CURIAE SUPPORTING PETITIONER.

The agency, via the Solicitor General, argues that the FDA’s decision to approve a drug and its labeling reflects the agency’s expert evaluation of the health risks and benefits the product can provide; respondent’s claims are preempted because they challenge labeling that FDA approved after being informed of the relevant facts. When federal regulation is designed to strike a balance between competing risk/benefit considerations, state laws that strike a different balance are impliedly preempted because they interfere with the federal balancing. The amicus brief also notes that FDA’s labeling requirements do not qualify as a mere minimum safety standard, or floor, upon which state laws could add more stringent requirements.

The SG also addresses the Vermont Supreme Court’s conclusion that the FDA’s regulations allow drug manufacturers to easily change drug labels unilaterally. “Petitioner was not free to disregard FDA’s judgment concerning previously known risks.” Brief at 21. The “limited exception” to the general rule requiring FDA to approve any label changes requires submission of a supplemental new drug application to, albeit not prior approval by, the agency. And substantive changes may be made without prior FDA approval only to correct concerns about newly discovered risks from the use of the drug. If manufacturers were free to make unilateral changes to labeling the day after FDA’s approval based on information that was previously available to the agency, the approval process would be greatly undermined and the agency’s careful balancing of risks and benefits thwarted.