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Glaucoma Treatment
Drug Companies want Supreme Court to Hear Eye Drops Dispute

The Supreme Court is being asked to hear a case about whether eye drops are too big. Yes, you heard right. Are eye drops too big?

Don’t roll your eyes. Major players in Americans’ medicine cabinets — including Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck, and Pfizer — are asking the Supreme Court to get involved in the case.

On the other side are patients using the companies’ drops to treat glaucoma and other eye conditions. Wasted medication affects their wallets, they say. They argue they would pay less for their treatment if their bottles of medication were designed to drip smaller drops. That would mean they could squeeze more doses out of every bottle. And they say companies could redesign the droppers on their bottles but have chosen not to.


Courts haven’t seen eye to eye on whether patients should be able to sue. That’s why the drugmakers are asking the Supreme Court to step in. A federal appeals court in Chicago threw out one lawsuit over drop size. But a federal appeals court in Philadelphia let the similar case now before the Supreme Court go forward. That kind of disagreement tends to get the Supreme Court’s attention.

And if a drop-size lawsuit can go forward, so too could other packaging design lawsuits, like one by “toothpaste users whose tubes of toothpaste did not allow every bit of toothpaste to be used,” wrote Kannon Shanmugam, a frequent advocate before the Supreme Court who is representing the drug companies in asking the high court to take the case.

Drug companies say the patients’ argument is based on speculation and a hypothetical bottle. They point out that the size of their eye drops was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, 17-1337 Alcon Laboratories v. Leonard Cottrell, it would be argued sometime after the court returns from its summer break. The high court could also turn away the case. The court takes fewer than 100 cases a year of the thousands it’s asked to take. It’s already up to its eyeballs in requests.


Associated Press
NY Daily News