Surely A Large Human
Date registered: Jun 2006
Vehicle: '08 C219
Location: Between Earth and Mars
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SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- You may be about to lose your ability to sue drug companies.
The Supreme Court will hear a case this fall that could shield pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits. Already, medical-device makers are shielded by a ruling made earlier this year. So, if you are wondering, this means that if a heart monitor is defective, or possibly now if the heart medication you are taking is faulty, you'll have no recourse in court against the makers.
The Supreme Court will decide whether the Food and Drug Administration is better to regulate drug companies than judges. The White House, it's reported, opened the doors to this possibility. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Bush administration, "had federal agencies reinterpret the laws on the books to conclude that jury verdicts would conflict with federal policy."
The thwarting is about big monetary damages that manufacturers are forced to pay when jurors side with plaintiffs. Businesses, of course, don't like these payouts and have been lobbying for years to get lawsuits disallowed and damages limited. They say big claims boost the prices of their products for the rest of us.
Limiting our ability to sue is a massive infringement on our rights. A ruling disallowing our right to sue upsets the balance of society. We as a citizenry deserve protections under the law -- not alienation by law. Without recourse, lawfulness is more easily corrupted. And that's exactly what the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief for the Supreme Court case.
They say lawsuits can serve as "a vital deterrent" to protect consumers, especially if drug companies don't disclose a product's risks to the FDA. Indeed, the editors say the FDA "is in no position" to guarantee drug safety. Undisclosed side effects (or "risks") plague many drugs on the market, perhaps most famously, Vioxx, which was reportedly found to cause increased chances heart attack or stroke.
The Supreme Court case being heard this fall, Wyeth v. Levine, involves a Vermont woman, Diana Levine, who lost her right arm below the elbow due to gangrene, which she developed after being injected with Phenergan, a medicine for nausea. She argued that the manufacturer, Wyeth, had neglected to warn that the injections could have such consequences and she filed suit -- and won. A state court awarded her $7 million.
But Wyeth appealed on the grounds that it is protected from such lawsuits because the FDA cannot be overruled by a state court. This is what the Supreme Court will decide.
Drug-company advocates point out that thousands of lawsuits are filed each year against them and that juries are not in the best position to decide what is best for the public. Rather, they claim, the FDA is, and therefore Wyeth should prevail.
The Supreme Court should throw the case out. Enough of our rights have been compromised over the past eight years. Enough indeed is enough. Accountability needs to rest in the hands of the people. The courts should not be allowed to take away that consequence. We can't count on the FDA to regulate truth.
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