The learned intermediary doctrine provides that makers of prescription drugs and medical devices discharge their obligation to consumers by providing warnings to the prescribing doctor. In other words, drug and device companies have no obligation to directly warn patients about the risks associated with their drugs or medical devices.
The historic rationale for this rule is that prescription drugs are often complex and prescribing doctors can take into account the propensities of the drug, and the susceptibilities of his patient and properly weigh the risk against the benefits. But, arguably, all of this is premised on the notion that drug companies are talking to doctors and not consumers.
Today, drug companies talk to us about their drugs every time we pick up a paper or turn on the television. Does this make the learned intermediary doctrine obsolete? Apparently, some New York legislatures do, proposing a bill to eliminate the learned intermediary doctrine. I first read about this from the Drug and Device Law Blog, a defense-oriented blog that naturally opposes the bill.