Opposition to shielding drug makers makes malpractice bill a longer shot

CQ Weekly
Monday, January 10, 2005

Some lawmakers are unaware that the medical malpractice bill would benefit drug companies, device manufacturers and managed care plans.

The liability shield for drug and device makers received little attention during last year’s debate on malpractice legislation. Some lawmakers raised questions about it, although most focused on the damage caps and other limits on litigation for doctors.

“I think it will be a major factor, and I hope that it does ultimately stop the bill,” said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a left-leaning advocacy group that is working against the legislation. “The protections the drug companies get are bad.”

The tone from Senate Democrats this week has been sharp. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts called Bush’s appeal “nothing but a shameful shield for drug companies and HMOs who hurt people through negligence.”

The legal benefits for drug companies would be more generous than those for doctors, unless Republicans decide to modify the legislation.

One Democrat that Republicans are eyeing as a potential supporter of caps, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, criticized the broad scope of protected parties last year, before the withdrawal of Vioxx from the market.

“The FDA exemption sets, in a way, a downward course,” Feinstein said during last year’s Senate debate. “If a company has an FDA-approved product on the market and then learns of dangerous complications, the company must remove the product from the marketplace immediately. To provide an exemption for products with FDA approval may well be a disincentive to prompt removal from the shelf.”
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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