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Commentary
May 21, 2008

The Deregulatory Effects of Preempting Tort LitigationFDA Regulation of Medical Devices

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC.

JAMA. 2008;299(19):2313-2316. doi:10.1001/jama.299.19.2313

Charles Riegel underwent coronary angioplasty in 1996, shortly after sustaining a myocardial infarction. Mr Riegel's physician inserted the Evergreen balloon catheter, a medical device approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), into his patient's coronary artery in an attempt to dilate the artery, but the catheter ruptured. Mr Riegel developed complete heart block, was placed on life support, and underwent emergency coronary artery bypass graft surgery. He sued Medtronic, the manufacturer of the device, alleging that the company was liable under New York tort law in designing, testing, inspecting, labeling, and marketing the catheter. On February 20, 2008, the Supreme Court held that the Medical Device Amendments of 1976 (MDA) bars common law claims challenging the safety or effectiveness of a medical device marketed in a form that received premarket approval from the FDA. Riegel v Medtronic Inc has broad implications for patient safety because it removes all means of judicial recourse for most consumers injured by defective medical devices.1

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