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February 2022: Landmark Victory for Science and Freedom of Speech

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On February 4, 2022, U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo dismissed with prejudice, a lawsuit filed by pharmaceutical company Pacira Biosciences, Inc., finding that Pacira did not—and could not—state a claim for trade libel against Quinn Emanuel’s clients the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the Editor-In-Chief of Anesthesiology (the official peer-reviewed journal of the ASA), and 11 contributing authors.  Pacira’s lawsuit, filed in April 2021, stemmed from two articles and an editorial published in the February 2021 edition of Anesthesiology that reported findings about the cost and claimed clinical benefits of Pacira’s prescription pain medication, EXPAREL (liposomal bupivacaine), as compared to regular bupivacaine and other non-opioids.  In June 2021, Quinn Emanuel filed a motion to dismiss Pacira’s complaint, arguing that this was not a justiciable dispute because, under the applicable First Amendment case law, science is constantly progressing and reflects judgments and opinions that are not properly the subject of a legal claim.

The Court agreed, finding that the contributing authors’ statements and conclusions in the articles and editorial were scientific opinions and therefore, by their nature, could not constitute defamation.  In its opinion, the Court stated that the peer review process—not a courtroom—provides the best forum for resolving issues of scientific uncertainty and disagreement.  To hold otherwise would, as the Court stated:  “chill robust and open debate about the efficacy of drugs within the medical community.”  In granting Quinn Emanuel’s motion to dismiss Pacira’s complaint with prejudice, the Court denied Pacira’s request for leave to amend, finding amendment would be futile because Pacira could not cure the fundamental deficiencies with its trade libel claim.

The Court’s ruling is not only a significant victory for Quinn Emanuel’s clients (some of the foremost leading physicians and researchers in the fields of anesthesiology and clinical studies), but it is also a win for the greater scientific community and all others who conduct research in search for the truth.