Medical Negligence Personal Injury Cases: The Learned Intermediary Doctrine As A Liability Shield For Pharmaceutical Companies

Posted on

Medications have revolutionized the health industry, and help patients maintain and control various aspects of their health. Despite the numerous benefits that medications offer, 100,000 Americans die each year from prescription drugs – not from taking the wrong dose or the wrong drug, but simply due to side effects. Patients who are victims of side effects of taking a particular drug, and were not warned ahead of time have a right to legal compensation. However, determining which party is liable can be difficult with the learned intermediary doctrine.

A Common Liability Shield for Pharmaceutical Companies

Those who are victims of taking prescription medications may blame pharmaceutical companies for producing and manufacturing a defective product. The pharmaceutical companies may appear like the rightful party to go after; however, most pharmaceutical companies will use the learned intermediary doctrine as a liability shield.

The learned intermediary doctrine relieves pharmaceuticals of all responsibilities so long as they have fulfilled their duty by providing all information necessary to a "learned intermediary". The learned intermediary is more often than not a physician who will then introduce and recommend the medication to the patients. Necessary information includes expected side effects of taking the medication – no matter how rare or uncommon they are. As long as the pharmaceutical companies can prove that they were diligent in providing necessary information to the physician, they are off the hook in terms of liability. The physician who prescribed and recommended the medication is then held responsible.

To determine whether the pharmaceutical companies will use the learned intermediary doctrine, you'll need to speak with a personal injury attorney immediately. Your attorney will look at whether the prescribing physician was aware of the side effects, and were given the information necessary to help you make an informed decision. Although the pharmaceutical companies may use this doctrine should the case be taken to court, they may also negotiate a settlement with you to reduce the legal fees and hassle involved with dealing with the case.

Holding Your Physician Responsible

If the pharmaceutical companies have gone out of their way to ensure that the physicians were aware of the side effects, the prescribing physicians is then held responsible. You will have to prove that the physician did not notify you on the side effects of taking the medication. Your attorney will need to file a medical malpractice suit against the physician for providing an inadequate medical standard of care.

The medical standard of care looks at whether another competent physician would have been able to notify you of the possible side effects of taking the medication. In addition, the medical standard of care would also consider whether a competent physician would have prescribed the medication you took when taking into account your medical history and other health variables.

You may need to consult with an expert witness in order to build a strong case. You will also need to prove that your physician did not make the side effects of taking the prescribed medication known, so you could have made a better and more informed decision relating to your health.


If you're a victim of taking prescription drugs and would like to seek compensation for your injuries, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. You can find a personal injury attorney by checking out one firm online at To seek compensation, you must be able to first determine which party is liable. In this case, figuring out whether the learned intermediary doctrine applies can make a huge difference. Considering the fact that filing a case takes a lot of time and effort, you want to make sure you target and go after the right party from the get go.