Drug Litigation and Tort Reform

The title of this posting represents a dilemma for the country, and I credit John Grisham’s book “The Litigator” (reviewed on this web site) with the idea for this posting. New drugs have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after exhaustive testing, but there is no “safe” drug. Every pill anyone pops has side effects, regardless of whether it is aspirin or something used to combat pain, depression, cholesterol, or disease. People want relief from their ailments, and look to the big drug companies to provide that in the form of pills. People with loved ones who have uncommon diseases want the drug companies to spend the billions of dollars required to research possible cures. Lurking in the wings are the law firms specializing in suing drug companies after some people take their pills and suffer ill effects. The ill effects don’t even have to be associated with the pills to make the lawyers looking for cases happy. Apparently the FDA that approved the drug has no liability.

Anyone with a television understands the magnitude of the problem. Television ads are continually searching for people who willing to join a claim about a “bad drug” or a dangerous substance, such as asbestos. I’ve known that “Doug” has meothelioma for months or years now.

Tort reform is a one way of controlling the problem, but a couple of presidents have stood in the way. President Clinton vetoed legislation that had been carefully crafted to control frivolous lawsuits while allowing legitimate claimants their day in court and compensation. When a senator was asked why the bill was vetoed, the three words that were used to explain were, “The trial lawyers.”

Another president who avoided the wrath of trial lawyers was Mr. Obabma. He and his supporters in the legislature emphasized that the reason for “Obamacare” was to control escalating medical costs. One of the most obvious causes of escalating medical costs was and is the cost of litigation and costs of insurance for pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals. The final bill had nothing about tort reform despite the effort of some legislators to include language to address the problem. As to why this was so, once again, “The trial lawyers.”

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