Trial Lawyers Prove They Are Out Of Control Yet Again

Trial Lawyers Now Take Aim at Drug Makers
I have my own beefs with the pharmaceutical companies — marketing practices, abuse of the patent system, use of prescription status to add additional protection from competition and pricing practices — though this is not really their fault because they are responding to the market as it is set up today where insurance companies pay, rather than individuals. Are the trial lawyers trying to fix any of these ills? No.

If the current system used a “reasonable person” standard to determine whether negligence had occurred, I may feel differently. But, it’s obvious that no such standard is being used or the trial lawyers would have never won the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990’s. What reasonable person would not know that smoking is dangerous and can lead to emphysema and lung cancer? Also, cigarettes are a legal product and until that status changes I don’t see why cigarette manufacturers should be treated differently than any other industry.

There is reason for hope, though. Judges and juries have been rejecting lawsuits against gun manufacturers where the trial lawyers have tried to place the blame for individual criminal acts on the gun manufacturers. Still, if the trial lawyers succeed against the pharmaceutical companies it will make them risk averse and they’ll be reluctant to create new classes of drugs. Instead they’ll focus on safe retreads such as That Purple Abomination™ known as Nexium.

Patients will suffer as a result.

Enriched and emboldened after successful fights against asbestos and tobacco companies, some of the nation’s top plaintiffs’ lawyers have trained their sights on drug makers, claiming that many giant pharmaceutical companies have hidden the dangers of medicines the lawyers say have harmed thousands of people.

In some cases the drugs at issue have already been pulled off the market, like Rezulin, a diabetes treatment from Pfizer that the Food and Drug Administration has linked to liver damage and is the target of almost 9,000 suits. Other suits name some of the industry’s current best sellers, including Paxil, an antidepressant that plaintiffs contend is addictive — a claim denied by the drug’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline.

In some instances, teams of plaintiffs’ lawyers are spending several million dollars preparing cases for trial, in the hopes of winning billions of dollars in settlements and jury verdicts from the drug companies, which have some of the deepest pockets among American corporations.

The lawyers pursuing the suits say that the Food and Drug Administration has systemically failed to protect patients from dangerous drugs, and that the companies have tried to hide side effects. But the agency says medicines are safer now than they have ever been.

Within the industry, meanwhile, some experts on drug development say that juries may be ill-equipped to make the complicated cost-benefit analysis that the F.D.A. performs when it decides to approve new drugs. And companies have begun to consider the threat of lawsuits when deciding which new medicines to pursue, said Kenneth I. Kaitin, the director of Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, a nonprofit group that is supported by the industry. Companies, for example, have mostly stopped developing contraceptives, which are very vulnerable to lawsuits, Mr. Kaitin said.

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