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Unintended Consequences of Products Liability: Evidence from the Pharmaceutical Market

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  • Eric Helland
  • Darius N. Lakdawalla
  • Anup Malani
  • Seth A. Seabury

Abstract

In a complex economy, production is vertical and crosses jurisdictional lines. Goods are often produced by an upstream national or global firm and improved or distributed by local firms downstream. In this context, heightened products liability may have unintended consequences on product sales and consumer safety. Conventional wisdom holds that an increase in tort liability on the upstream firm will cause that firm to (weakly) increase investment in safety or disclosure. However, this may fail in the real-world, where upstream firms operate in many jurisdictions, so that the actions of a single jurisdiction may not be significant enough to influence upstream firm behavior. Even worse, if liability is shared between upstream and downstream firms, higher upstream liability may mechanically decrease liability of the downstream distributor and encourage more reckless behavior by the downstream firm. In this manner, higher upstream liability may perversely increase the sales of a risky good. We demonstrate this phenomenon in the context of the pharmaceutical market. We show that higher products liability on upstream pharmaceutical manufacturers reduces the liability faced by downstream doctors, who respond by prescribing more drugs than before.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Helland & Darius N. Lakdawalla & Anup Malani & Seth A. Seabury, 2014. "Unintended Consequences of Products Liability: Evidence from the Pharmaceutical Market," NBER Working Papers 20005, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20005 Note: HC HE LE PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Darius Lakdawalla & Wesley Yin, 2015. "Insurers’ Negotiating Leverage and the External Effects of Medicare Part D," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(2), pages 314-331, May.
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    3. Eric Helland & Mark H. Showalter, 2009. "The Impact of Liability on the Physician Labor Market," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(4), pages 635-663, November.
    4. Patrick Legros & Steven A. Matthews, 1993. "Efficient and Nearly-Efficient Partnerships," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 599-611.
    5. Bruce Hay & Kathryn E. Spier, 2005. "Manufacturer Liability for Harms Caused by Consumers to Others," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1700-1711, December.
    6. Jonathan Klick & Thomas Stratmann, 2007. "Medical Malpractice Reform and Physicians in High-Risk Specialties," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(S2), pages 121-142, June.
    7. Janet Currie & W. Bentley MacLeod, 2008. "First Do No Harm? Tort Reform and Birth Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 795-830.
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    13. David A. Matsa, 2007. "Does Malpractice Liability Keep the Doctor Away? Evidence from Tort Reform Damage Caps," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(S2), pages 143-182, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • K13 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Tort Law and Product Liability; Forensic Economics

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