Posted in on March 4, 2008

Supreme Court Considers Protecting Drug Companies From Lawsuits

When I read that the Supreme Court is considering protecting drug makers from lawsuits, my first thought was you’ve got to be kidding! This news emerges on the heels of the Baxter heparin recall.

Baxter’s initial partial recall occurred on January 17, 2008. On February 28, 2008, seven weeks later, after 400 cases of adverse reactions and four deaths, they announced a recall of all of their heparin products. Since the latest recall, there are now reports of additional deaths that may be attributed to heparin. Because 4 deaths aren’t enough.

One would hope that a pharmaceutical company would have all of the kinks worked out before they put their product on the market. That said, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say the drugs are as safe as they can make them, but something totally unforeseen comes up that proves to be a danger to the public. In a perfect world, that product would immediately be pulled from the market and there would be no deaths and minimal adverse reactions from a defective product. The FDA and Baxter don’t exist in our perfect world. History has shown that Corporate America won’t pull a defective product until it hurts them financially. Baxter and the FDA claimed the health benefits outweighed the health risks. Tell that to the 400 patients who suffered adverse reactions. Tell that to the families of the four people who died.

And now the Supreme Court is considering protecting companies like Baxter. Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the fundamental question is who should make the decisions that determine whether a drug is “on balance, going to save people or, on balance, going to hurt people? An expert agency on the one hand or 12 people pulled randomly for a jury role who see before them only the people who the drug hurt and don’t see those who need the drug to cure them?” he continues.

Seems to me, that is exactly the type of questions you and I should be answering. Justice Breyer contends the role of policing the medical market is exclusively the role of the Food and Drug Administration. The Institute of Medicine, the Government Accountability Office and the FDA’s own science board have all issued reports saying poor management and scientific inadequacies make the agency incapable of protecting the country against unsafe drugs, medical devices and food.

Justice Breyer’s logic interprets into the hard, cold fact that if a few people die or suffer serious side effects as a consequence of taking any drug, then that is okay. A small price to pay, for the benefit of the masses. Let’s hope that Justice Stephen G. Breyer or his family isn’t one of unlucky few that suffers serious side effects or dies. Because according to Justice Breyer’s logic, that’s okay, because there are many more people who benefited from this drug.

That’s not okay. The 400 patients who suffered from the adverse reactions don’t think it’s okay. The families of the 4 people who died don’t think it’s okay. If the drug companies think that is okay, then let’s hold them financially accountable.

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