NC Senate mulls immunity for drug companies

Posted March 29, 2012

— A state Senate committee is considering a proposal that would block lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies over drugs that were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Drugmakers say they need protection from frivolous lawsuits, but doctors and others say the prospect of giving the companies immunity puts profits above people.

"We don't want any other family to have to suffer through something like this," Carolyn Prewitt, whose granddaughter died in 2006 from blood clots in her lungs, said Thursday..

Brittany Prewitt, 15, was taking the drug Yaz to clear up her acne and collapsed while playing catch with her father. The family is suing Bayer, claiming the company suppressed information about dangers associated with Yaz.

Under the proposal being considered by the Pharmaceutical Liability Subcommittee of the Senate, such suits would be barred in North Carolina. The only exception would be for a plaintiff who could prove a pharmaceutical company lied to the FDA to get a drug approved.

Critics of the bill say that's nearly impossible to do.

Dr. Wayne Welsher, a heart surgeon, told lawmakers that he has watched some patients die from a drug he gave them before the company that produced the drug finally admitted its risks.

Prescription painkillers Doctors, others decry idea of barring suits over faulty drugs

"I can't even imagine, as a physician, as a patient, as a Republican, as an American, how we would even begin to assume that a drug company should be above the law. It makes no sense," Welsher said.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said an immunity law could cost the state millions of dollars because it wouldn't be able to share in national settlements over bad drugs.

Gary Salomido, vice president of government relations for the North Carolina Chamber, said pharmaceuticals a big business that the state cannot afford to lose because of an unfriendly business climate. Texas, Michigan and New Jersey already have immunity laws for drug companies.

"The adoption of the language (in the proposal) will illustrate North Carolina's commitment to the bioscience industry and to a culture of innovation," Salomido said.

The Senate committee meets again next month to hear more testimony.


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  • floydthebarber Mar 30, 2012

    Why would you trust the drug companies instead of the public to bring these horrible drug problems to light?

    These NC republicans are just answering to their corporate donors. And North Carolinians are smarter than that.

  • lovelarvae Mar 30, 2012

    "Under the proposal being considered by the Pharmaceutical Liability Subcommittee of the Senate, such suits would be barred in North Carolina."

    I get the feeling the purpose of that subcommittee is to look out for the best interests of the pharmaceutical companies rather than the best interests of their customers. But I guess that's standard procedure for most of government these days, state and federal.

  • Bogie Mar 30, 2012

    I find it really ironic and incredibly hypocritical that the political party that doesn't trust or like government (e.g., FDA)wants to re-set product liability standards so that pharmaceutical companies can rely on FDA approval as a defense! This legislature is getting around to offending every North Carolinian as each day passes.

  • tarheelgrad1998 Mar 30, 2012

    Fine, give them immunity...AND cap their profits. See how much they like that.

  • davidgnews Mar 30, 2012

    Tillis and his misguided friends seem to be bent on lawsuit-prone legislation for whatever reason (beyond being bought and sold by their corporate friends, er lobbyists).

    Pharmcos will keep dumping drugs on the public because it's all about building shareholder value first, and curing nothing last.

  • kermit60 Mar 30, 2012

    It would make more sense to change the law so we could sue the FDA. Just like most government agencies they want to control everything but take responsibility for nothing.

  • rroadrunner99 Mar 30, 2012

    Well I'd say everyone can guess where part of the drug companies profit's went to!

  • corey3rd Mar 30, 2012

    This is another fine piece of legislation given to Tillis by ALEC - the corporate Overlords that have taken over NC Politics.

  • jwood011 Mar 30, 2012

    No one is above the law and it's past time every one and every company gets that message. Just because the FDA approved the drugs, doesn't mean the pharma industry should be let off the hook for shoddy manufacturing processes, etc. The quality of drugs would decrease if these companies knew they couldn't be held liable.

  • stupidbrainchild Mar 30, 2012

    I'm voting none of the above.