A gift for drug makers

New York Times
Friday, January 14, 2005

Vioxx, Celebrex, Prozac. . . .
With all the problems and the bad publicity that drug companies have been facing recently, you might think that this would not be a good time for the Bush administration to toss yet another bonanza their way.

The Celebrex disclosure came on the heels of a decision by Merck to withdraw its arthritis drug Vioxx from the market after a study showed a link between long-term use of the drug and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Two weeks ago, an article in The British Medical Journal suggested that Eli Lilly & Company had long concealed evidence that the antidepressant Prozac could cause violent and suicidal behavior. The company denies the accusation, which the journal forwarded to the F.D.A.
 If the malpractice legislation so relentlessly touted by President Bush became law, Pfizer, Merck and Eli Lilly would be immunized against even the possibility of punitive damages arising from any harm to patients that resulted from use of these drugs -- as long as the companies followed F.D.A. rules. All three drugs were approved by the F.D.A.
The whole idea behind punitive damages is to severely punish the most egregious offenders. Huge punitive damage awards are supposed to serve as a deterrent to extremely bad behavior.
''It's an important system to have in place,'' said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. ''The F.D.A. is certainly not doing its job. The legal system is a very important backup. It's really the last line of defense to ensure that the marketplace only has safe products.''
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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