Sunday, April 6, 2008

Big Pharma with Big Protection

Mind boggling. That is the only way to describe it. The courts are debating giving them a shield against lawsuits. The premise is that no agency nor court has enough expertise to disagree with the FDA, and therefore no lawsuits should be able to be brought against the pharmaceutical companies because the FDA already made their ruling on whether the drug was safe. So far, that sounds extremely reasonable. It keeps the courts from being clogged with ludicrous cases and saves these companies money which could, in theory, lead to lower drug prices.

But wait! There seems to be no protection against a company misleading the FDA. The company still cannot be sued. The Vioxx debacle and the Ortho Evra issues are going to be reoccurring situations from now on if this shield law takes effect. In essence, we have incentivized lying to the FDA. Without the "stick" of lawsuits to keep these companies honest, what is there? Drugs will be released to market, turn a profit for the company, and then some outside researchers will show that the drugs raise the risk of some ailment. The pharmaceutical company knew this as well but they suppressed the data. Too bad, there is no recourse for the injured consumer. I pray for the sake of America's health that the courts rule against these shields.


Lang said...

Ironic... The entire anti-regulation argument is based on the notion that companies wouldn't market faulty products because of the repercussions of doing so -namely, a ruined brand name, and having to pay out damages to those who were hurt.

We've already had substantial deregulation and lax enforcement in most regulatory agencies under the Bush administration. This really removes all incentives for companies to "behave well," and therefore entirely undermines the notion of consumer confidence in brand name goods.

I'm completely with you on this one.

hot zone said...

The companies would still have to deal with tarnished brand image though. That could eventually lead to a backlash, but that also requires the public to have any memory. If Pfizer made entirely faulty drugs people would boycott them, but if there is a nice mix of useful and faulty drugs the public will never know which ones are good and aren't.

Lang said...

Or if they just changed their name...

How many people remember that Panasonic's name used to be Matsushita? That Verizon is a combination of NYNEX, Bell Atlantic and MCI? That what was Salomon Brothers is now part of Citigroup?

Reputations aren't that hard to lose. Building good ones in the first place is the challenge.