Vermonter’s case is heard by Supreme Court

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(Host) We’ve been following the story of a Vermont woman whose case was before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Diana Levine is the musician from Marshfield who sued Wyeth Pharmaceuticals after her arm was amputated because of a drug reaction.

VPR’s John Dillon talked to Levine after today’s argument, and has this report:

(Dillon) Diana Levine said she was exhausted after an emotional day that saw her case go before the highest court in the land.

(Levine) “I definitely felt just how important the case is, and how much is riding on it, and how much is at stake beyond what is happening to me.”

(Dillon) Eight years ago, Levine’s arm was amputated after she received an injection of an anti-nausea drug called Phenergan, which is made by Wyeth. The drug hit a tiny artery and caused irreversible gangrene.

Levine and her lawyers say Wyeth knew of the risk, but failed to properly warn on the drug’s label that the injection method could be dangerous.

Wyeth says Levine should not be allowed to sue, because the drug’s label was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

The stakes are huge. Richard Rubin is Levine’s Vermont lawyer, who accompanied her to Washington.

(Rubin) “It is an important case, because the rights of all Americans and the rights of all Vermonters are at risk here. So it is a major case. If the Vermont Supreme Court is reversed, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Medicaid and Medicare will be paying a lot of medical bills that should be paid for by the drug companies for unsafe products.”

(Dillon) A transcript of the argument shows that the justices had sharp questions for both sides.

Justice Antonin Scalia seemed most skeptical of Levine’s claims, while Justices David Souter and Steven Breyer grilled Wyeth’s lawyer.

Levine said it was hard to tell from the questions which way the court is leaning.

(Levine) “I was hoping to have more of an intuition about that, to really be able to tell. But it just seemed like the questions, they asked good questions. For the most part, the process was positive. And I left feeling hopeful.”

(Dillon) The case has drawn attention from industry groups and the U.S. Congress. A group of congressmen, led by Senator Patrick Leahy, filed a brief supporting Levine.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon

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