California’s Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against Novartis in a decision that could have wider implications for whether brand-name or generic drugmakers should be held liable for warning consumers of risks in their drug labels.

In a departure from other recent rulings, the highest California court found that a brand-name drug manufacturer’s duty to warn consumers does extend to a generic, but only because federal regulations currently require generic drugs to carry the same warning label as appears on the brand-name product.

The court said: “brand-name drug manufacturers have a duty to use ordinary care in warning about the safety risks of their drugs, regardless of whether the injured party (in reliance on the brand-name manufacturer’s warning) was dispensed the brand-name or generic version of the drug. We also conclude that a brand-name manufacturer’s sale of the rights to a drug does not, as a matter of law, terminate its liability for injuries foreseeably and proximately caused by deficiencies present in the warning label prior to the sale.”

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