Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Drugs & Biotech
KYM PARDINI, ET AL V. UNILEVER UNITED STATES, INC.
The Butter! Spray is a butter-flavored vegetable oil dispensed in pump-action squirt bottles with a spray mechanism. The front label on the product states that the Butter! Spray has 0 calories and 0 grams of fat per serving. Plaintiffs are a class of consumers who brought their lawsuit against the then-manufacturer, Unilever United States, Inc., contending that the product’s label makes misrepresentations about fat and calorie content based on artificially low serving sizes. The district court found that Plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that Butter! Spray was not a “spray type” fat or oil under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The district court further held that the FDCA preempted plaintiffs’ serving size claims. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) dismissal. The panel held that, as a matter of legal classification, Butter! Spray was a “spray.” In common parlance, a “spray” refers to liquid dispensed in the form of droplets, emitted from a mechanism that allows the product to be applied in that manner. In addition, the notion that Butter! Spray could be housed under the FDA’s legal classification for “butter” is implausible. The panel also rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that Butter! Spray is a “butter substitute” based on how it is marketed so it should be treated as “butter” for serving size purposes, too. The court explained that because Plaintiffs’ challenge to the Butter! Spray serving sizes would “directly or indirectly establish” a requirement for food labeling that is “not identical” to federal requirements, the FDCA preempts their serving size claims. View "KYM PARDINI, ET AL V. UNILEVER UNITED STATES, INC." on Justia Law
NEXUS PHARMACEUTICALS, INC. V. CAPS, ET AL
Nexus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nexus) developed the trademarked and FDA-approved drug Emerphed, ready-to-use ephedrine sulfate in a vial. Drug compounding by “outsourcing facilities” is permitted without FDA approval, but 21 U.S.C. Section 353b, a part of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, excludes from this exception compounded drugs that are “essentially a copy of one or more approved drugs.” To avoid the Act’s bar on private enforcement, Nexus alleged violation of state laws that prohibit the sale of drugs not approved by the FDA. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal, for failure to state a claim, of state law claims brought by Nexus against Central Admixture Pharmacy Services, Inc., operator of a network of compounding pharmacies that sold the drug ephedrine sulfate pre-loaded into ready-to-use syringes without FDA approval. The panel affirmed the district court’s conclusion that, under the implied preemption doctrine, Nexus’s state law claims were barred because they were contrary to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act’s exclusive enforcement provision, which states that proceedings to enforce or restrain violations of the Act, including the compounding statute, must be by and in the name of the United States, not a private party. The panel held that all of Nexus’s claims depended on a determination of whether Central Admixture’s ephedrine sulphate was “essentially a copy” of Nexus’s Emerphed, and the plain text of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act left that determination in the first instance to the FDA and its enforcement process. View "NEXUS PHARMACEUTICALS, INC. V. CAPS, ET AL" on Justia Law
Advanced Integrative Medical Science Institute v. United States Drug Enforcement Administration
An attorney sought guidance on how a physician could administer psilocybin to a terminally ill patient without incurring liability under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), specifically asking the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) how the CSA would accommodate the Right to Try Act (amending the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) to give patients the possibility of access to new investigational drugs under certain circumstances. The DEA responded by identifying the available exemptions in the CSA and indicating that the Right to Try Act did not create any additional exemptions.The Ninth Circuit dismissed a petition for review for lack of jurisdiction, reasoning that DEA’s response was not a final decision of the Attorney General under 21 U.S.C. 877. To be considered final, the agency action must mark the consummation of the agency’s decision-making process and must be one where rights or obligations have been determined, or from which legal consequences flow. The DEA’s response was the sort of advice letter that agencies prepare multiple times a year. There was no indication that the letter represented the consummation of a decision-making process. The letter did not lead to legal consequences for the prescribing physician but only provided guidance about the interaction of the Right to Try Act and the CSA. View "Advanced Integrative Medical Science Institute v. United States Drug Enforcement Administration" on Justia Law
Sisley v. United States Drug Enforcement Agency
Zyszkiewicz, a prisoner and a medical cannabis patient, wrote a one-page letter to the DEA, seeking the rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. 801, which places federally-regulated substances into one of five schedules depending on “potential for abuse,” “medical use,” “safety,” and the likelihood of “dependence.” The DEA responded that the letter was not in the proper format for a petition but that it welcomed the opportunity to respond to his concerns. The DEA’s letter gave reasons for having denied an earlier rescheduling petition filed by Governors Chafee of Rhode Island and Gregoire of Washington State. Zyszkiewicz treated the DEA’s answer as a denial of his petition and unsuccessfully sought judicial review.Dr. Sisley, her associated institutions, and veterans (Petitioners) sought judicial review of the DEA’s response but did not seek to intervene in Zyszkiewicz’s petition before the DEA, nor have they filed a DEA petition of their own. The arguments Petitioners sought to raise were not made in Zyszkiewicz’s petition.The Ninth Circuit held that the Petitioners satisfy Article III standing requirements, but that they failed to exhaust their administrative remedies under the CSA and dismissed their petition for review. Petitioners alleged direct and particularized harms due to the misclassification of cannabis. Dr. Sisley and her associated institutions contend that the misclassification impedes their research efforts, and the veterans contend that it forecloses their access to medical treatment with cannabis through the VA. View "Sisley v. United States Drug Enforcement Agency" on Justia Law
Greenberg v. Target Corp.
To fight his hair loss, Greenberg bought an $8 bottle of biotin. The product label states that biotin “helps support healthy hair and skin” and has an asterisk that points to a disclaimer: “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” A Supplement Facts panel on the bottle states that the biotin amount in the product far exceeds the recommended daily dosage. Greenberg filed a putative class action under California’s Unfair Competition Law, alleging that the labels are deceptive because most people do not benefit from biotin supplementation.The panel affirmed summary judgment in favor of the manufacturer and distributors. The plaintiff’s state law claims were preempted by the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), under which the FDA requires that dietary supplement labels be truthful and not misleading; 21 U.S.C. 343(r)(6)(B) authorizes several categories of statements, including disease claims and structure/function claims. The FDCA includes a preemption provision to establish a national, uniform standard for labeling. The challenged statement was a permissible structure/function claim. There was substantiation that biotin “helps support healthy hair and skin”; that statement was truthful and not misleading. The label had the appropriate disclosures and did not claim to treat diseases. The state law claims amounted to imposition of different standards from the FDCA. View "Greenberg v. Target Corp." on Justia Law
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Connors
After the State of Hawaii filed suit against several pharmaceutical companies in state court for allegedly deceptive drug marketing related to the medication Plavix, the companies turned to federal court, seeking an injunction against the state court litigation based on a violation of their First Amendment rights.The Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that the state court litigation is a quasi-criminal enforcement proceeding and that Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), bars a federal court from interfering with such a proceeding. The panel explained that, even though the state proceeding is being litigated by private counsel, it is still an action brought by the State of Hawaii. The panel stated that what matters for Younger abstention is whether the state proceeding falls within the general class of quasi-criminal enforcement actions—not whether the proceeding satisfies specific factual criteria. Looking to the general class of cases of which this state proceeding is a member, the panel concluded that Younger abstention is appropriate here. In this case, the State's action has been brought under a statute that punishes those who engage in deceptive acts in commerce, and the State seeks civil penalties and punitive damages to sanction the companies for their allegedly deceptive labeling practices. Because the companies' First Amendment concerns do not bring this case within the scope of Younger's extraordinary circumstances exception, they have no bearing on the application of Younger. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action. View "Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Connors" on Justia Law
Kroessler v. CVS Health Corp.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a putative class action against CVS based on Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) preemption of California state law claims. Plaintiff alleged that the supplement he purchased, and five additional CVS glucosamine-based supplements, did not provide the advertised benefits. The FDCA distinguishes between "disease claims" and "structure/function claims" that manufacturers make about their products, applying different regulatory standards to each.The panel held that the district court erred in concluding that the FDCA preempts plaintiff's state law causes of action simply because CVS's glucosamine-based supplements present only structure/function claims. The panel explained that Dachauer v. NBTY, Inc., 913 F.3d 844 (9th Cir. 2019), was distinguishable from this case and the district court erred by applying it. Furthermore, the district court erred by greatly expanding the present state of federal preemption jurisprudence under the FDCA, contrary to public policy. The panel also held that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint without granting plaintiff leave to amend to add allegations regarding an implied disease claim. In this case, plaintiff may have been able to "bolster" his complaint with allegations of extra-label evidence showing that CVS's glucosamine-based supplements present implied disease claims. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Kroessler v. CVS Health Corp." on Justia Law
Booker v. C.R. Bard, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for plaintiff in an action alleging product-liability claims based on injuries she sustained from a medical device -- the G2 intravascular filter -- designed and manufactured by Bard. The jury found Bard liable for negligent failure to warn, awarding $1.6 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.The panel held that, because Bard's preemption defense presented a purely legal question, it would consider the merits of the district court's denial of its motion for summary judgment. The panel held that the preemption argument fails because Booker's claim rests on an asserted state-law duty to warn of the risks posed by the particular design of Bard's G2 Filter, and the FDA has not imposed any requirements related to the design of that device or how a device of that design should be labeled. In regard to the failure-to-warn claim, the panel held that Georgia courts had not adopted a categorical prohibition on basing a failure-to-warn claim on the absence of a comparative warning, and the district court correctly allowed the jury to decide the adequacy of the warning. Finally, the panel held that the evidence was adequate to support the jury's award of punitive damages. View "Booker v. C.R. Bard, Inc." on Justia Law
Dent v. National Football League
The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's dismissal of a third amended complaint (TAC) brought by plaintiffs, a putative class of former NFL players, alleging that the NFL negligently facilitated the hand-out of controlled substances to dull players' pain and to return them to the game in order to maximize profits. The NFL allegedly conducted studies and promulgated rules regarding how Clubs should handle distribution of the medications at issue, but failed to ensure compliance with them, with medical ethics, or with federal laws such as the Controlled Substances Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.The panel agreed with the district court that two of plaintiffs' theories of negligence, negligence per se and special relationship, were insufficiently pled. However, the panel held that plaintiff's voluntary undertaking theory survives dismissal, given sufficient allegations in the TAC of the NFL's failure to "use its authority to provide routine and important safety measures" regarding distribution of medications and returning athletes to play after injury. Furthermore, if proven, a voluntary undertaking theory could establish a duty owed by the NFL to protect player safety after injury, breach of that duty by incentivizing premature return to play, and liability for resulting damages. View "Dent v. National Football League" on Justia Law
Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 Health Care Fund v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claims based on lack of RICO standing in a putative class action brought against pharmaceutical companies. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the companies refused to change the warning label of their drug Actos or otherwise inform the public after they learned that the drug increased a patient’s risk of developing bladder cancer.The panel held that patients and health insurance companies who reimbursed patients adequately alleged the required element of proximate cause where they alleged that, but for defendant's omitted mention of a drug's known safety risk, they would not have paid for the drug. The panel agreed with the First and Third Circuits that plaintiffs' damages were not too far removed from defendants' alleged omissions and misrepresentations to satisfy RICO's proximate cause requirement. In this case, plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a direct relationship, and the Holmes factors weighed in favor of permitting their RICO claims to proceed. The panel explained that, although prescribing physicians served as intermediaries between defendants' fraudulent omission of Actos's risk of causing bladder cancer and plaintiffs' payments for the drug, prescribing physicians did not constitute an intervening cause to cut off the chain of proximate causation. The panel also held that plaintiffs have adequately alleged the reliance necessary to satisfy RICO's proximate cause requirement. View "Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 Health Care Fund v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co." on Justia Law