Medical malpractice bill limiting drug companies' liability on GOP agenda

CQ Today
Wednesday, January 5, 2005

The medical malpractice bill that House Republican lawmakers plan to reintroduce would limit lawsuits against drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration -- including the abortion pill RU-486 -- legal experts say.
Families of women who have died after complications associated with using RU-486, or mifepristone, have sued its manufacturer, Danco Laboratories. Aides say that such lawsuits would face the liability limits supported by President Bush.

The bill's broad scope of protections had the benefit of creating an assembly of powerful lobbies working for passage, and GOP leaders could be reluctant to lose that support.
The 2003 House-passed bill would have capped pain and suffering damage awards -- for all covered groups, including doctors, insurers, drug and device manufacturers -- at $250,000. It would restrict punitive damage awards for providers to cases in which it was proved that "malicious intent" caused the injury or the provider "deliberately failed to avoid unnecessary injury." The protections for drug and device manufacturers would go further by banning any punitive damages.
Democrats, such as Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, expressed outrage Wednesday at the proposed protections for drug and device companies. Others, such as Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., previously criticized the provision and expect it to remain.
"I don't think they're going to drop it because the drug companies are insistent that they get protection," said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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