Federal preemption is controversial because it diminishes the autonomy of a state’s power to regulate given policy areas. However, having a coherent national policy for a given area prevents conflicting federal and state laws and regulations. In the U.S. Supreme Court case Wyeth v. Levine, the conflict between federal and state laws was evident. The Wyeth pharmaceutical company appealed a Vermont court decision which determined that Wyeth should have had better safety warnings in its drug labeling. In its appeal to the Supreme Court, Wyeth claimed that it had met federal standards in its drug safety labeling and that these federal standards preempted any state regulations in this area. The Supreme Court, in its decision, determined that Congress had not preempted the field in this case, and that Wyeth was obliged to follow state regulations on drug labeling.
It is more beneficial to an injured party if federal preemption does not come into play. If injured persons are able to sue in state court, the outcomes often are favorable because the jury consists of people from their state and who may be more sympathetic by association. The outcome of Wyeth v. Levine had immediate consequences on the rights of the injured party in this case. Had federal preemption been determined by the Supreme Court, it would have eliminated, for the most part, the possibility of Levine’s lawsuit success. This Supreme Court’s decision also had public policy reverberations that impacted and influenced the way that federal and state governments approach the crucial issue of drug labeling.
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