House Committee Hands Big Pharma a Gift: Legal Immunity for Bad Drugs

Bill Rewards Corporate Interests and Multinational Drug Companies at the Expense of Injured Consumers, Says NC Advocates for Justice

Pharma Exec Allowed Exclusive Opportunity to Speak as Patient Advocates Told to Wait

Mar 23, 2011, 15:44 ET from NC Advocates for Justice

RALEIGH, N.C., March 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Rep. Johnathan Rhyne, Republican Chairman of the NC House Select Committee on Tort Reform, today launched an assault on patients rights, adding provisions to favor insurance companies and drug manufacturers to a controversial Senate bill.  As summarized by the NC Advocates for Justice, the House bill includes:

1.) Immunity for Negligent Drug Manufacturers:  Drug companies could not be sued by those harmed by defective and dangerous drugs unless the company obtained FDA approval by fraud.  Even if the product is later found to be harmful or deadly, the drug manufacturer -- so long as it had FDA approval -- cannot be held liable.  Only one other state, Michigan, has passed a similarly extreme law, and there a repeal movement is underway.  

2.) Legalized Negligence: The house version of Senate Bill 33 continues to provide immunity for negligence in the ER.  

3.) Unconstitutional Cap: The House bill limits damages to patients who suffer disfigurement, mutilation, loss of limb, and paralysis to $250,000.  Two retired NC Supreme Court Justices, both conservative Republicans, have told legislators that the proposed cap is "unconstitutional and unnecessary."

Rep. Rhyne allowed only one speaker at today's meeting -- John Del Giorno, a top government relations executive for GlaxoSmithKline.   Rep. Rhyne told all other potential speakers -- including eager patient advocates -- they would have to wait until next week, then gave the floor to GSK's Del Giorno.

"These proposals would benefit CEOs of corporations, drug companies and groups like the North Carolina Medical Society at the expense of the average North Carolinian," said Dick Taylor of the NC Advocates for Justice. "These priorities are upside down."    

The Charlotte Observer, in a recent voice-of-the-paper editorial, said of SB 33: "This is not the right approach...rather, it will limit the ability of the citizens of North Carolina to seek damages for pain and suffering, including mistakes and botched care in emergency rooms that have killed many and maimed others."

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that 4,000 patients die and 5,700 patients are permanently injured in North Carolina hospitals every year because of preventable medical mistakes.

The Select Committee, chaired by Reps. Rhyne and Dan McComas, is scheduled to hold its only public hearing on Thursday, March 31.

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SOURCE NC Advocates for Justice