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Michigan’s Drug Shield Law Is Like Giving Goliath A Bulletproof Vest

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University of Michigan professor Henry Greenspan hit it on the nose with his editorial on March 10, 2010 in the Lansing State Journal. Professor Greenspan is right to state that Michigan’s Drug Immunity Law does nothing to enhance public health. All it does is enhance pharmaceutical bank accounts while robbing citizens of their rights to take these drug companies to court when their products cause extreme harm.

What is drug immunity in Michigan? It is a law passed by the Michigan Legislature (PDF) in 1996 that shields pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits if the drug has been FDA approved. Doesn’t sound that bad, does it? Think again.

First, Professor Greenspan is quick to point out the sad state of science at the FDA. He points out that no less than four major reviews of the FDA in recent years have warned of the FDA’s under-funded efforts. There is almost universal agreement among former FDA heads that the FDA itself is barely staying afloat. In an era when drugs are becoming more complicated and aggressively marketed to the public, now is not the time to have science suffering.

Second, Professor Greenspan also shows that the FDA never contemplated doing away with lawsuits as a part of ensuring public safety. In fact, FDA Chief Counsel Margaret Porter was quoted as saying that FDA approval and lawsuits both provide “a significant, yet distinct, layer of consumer protection.”

You hear that? Consumer Protection. That is what the FDA is about. That is what government oversight is about – protecting citizens, protecting consumers. NOT protecting powerful pharmaceutical companies by allowing them to ram their drugs through an FDA approval process and sit back, racking up millions of dollars in profits, and not worry a lick if their drug hurts or kills thousands of people. It’s good someone still has the courage to speak up about what’s right. If we’re going to give Goliath corporations a bulletproof vest, we’re going to need more people like Greenspan to speak the truth with precision aimed rocks.