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While we have relied on the FDA to ensure the safety of our food and drugs, the agency seems to have undermined enforcement and betrayed its consumer-first principles by rushing new drugs to the market and doing nothing to help reduce the toll of drug-induced illness in America. Women in particular have suffered countless injuries and deaths as a result of these unsafe drugs and devices. This is largely due to the number of products routinely prescribed to otherwise healthy women to control certain aspects of their reproductive system. According to Cynthia Pearson, Executive Director of the National Women’s Health Network, women have been hurt so many times over the years by FDA-approved drugs, whether because drug companies withheld information and lied about health risks, or because the FDA has lacked the resources or political will to keep dangerous products off the market.

Despite the FDA’s supposed role as regulators of the industry, these dangerous drugs continue to be marketed and sold to consumers. Perhaps we can take some comfort in knowing that lawsuits filed by the victims have become a powerful way of controlling the flow of unsafe drugs. For example, many drugs and devices were made safer or taken off the market only after victims and their families have filed lawsuits against those responsible. With the FDA sleeping on its job, lawsuits against these drug companies seem to be the only, and perhaps the most effective way to ensure consumer protection. Large verdicts or settlements have become the utmost influential factor forcing these drug companies to take immediate action to change their unsafe product or practice. Furthermore, lawsuits have been tremendously beneficial in that it encourages medical research and alerts the public – and ultimately pressuring regulators – to act on larger health risks and problems.

The release of the report, The Bitterest Pill – How Drug Companies Fail to Protect Women and How Lawsuits Save Their Lives, comes less than a week before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in Wyeth v. Levine. On November 3rd, the Court will decide whether to afford the drug industry unprecedented legal immunity for causing injuries or death, despite negligent or irresponsible behavior. In the unfortunate event that such immunity is granted, we’d lose the only available means of keeping the drug companies in check. Not only would the victims be deprived of the opportunity to rebuild their lives, the public would also live in the constant fear that drug companies might be looking to fatten their bank accounts rather than ensuring the safety of their drugs. Without accountability, the drug industry will no doubt become a breeding ground for negligence, greed, and irresponsible actions.

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