Leslie Richter has been speaking for years on behalf of her husband, who died after taking a painkiller now linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. But the Michigan Senate has yet to act on her plea to repeal a law that protects drugmakers from product-liability suits, she said at a press conference yesterday,The Jackson Citizen-Patriot reports.
"They have to put the people of this state ahead of pharmaceutical companies,'' said Richter of Lansing, Michigan, whose husband, Richard, had two strokes and died in March 2003 after taking Vioxx, a drug that has since been pulled from the market. "There is nothing you can do for recourse.''
The concept, of course, is called preemption and its supports insist that FDA approval of a drug preempts state law claims challenging the safety, efficacy, or labeling. At issue is whether patients can sue a drugmaker through state law when a product has already been approved by the FDA. And critics, such as Richter, argue the notion robs consumers of due recourse. The US Supreme Court is due to review the debate. Michigan, however, is the only state that has preemption on its books.
Richter and others, including state Rep. Mike Simpson, a Democrat, spoke in several Michigan cities Monday to draw attention to the issue, one yeaer after the state House voted to repeal it. Since the House decision, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, a Republican, has not brought the issue up for a vote and no hearings have been scheduled with the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to Simpson, a sponsor of the repeal legislation.
Neither Bishop nor Senate Judiciary Chairman Wayne Kuipers, both Republicans, could be reached Monday for comment. Nor could any of their staff members. Government offices were closed for Presidents Day.
The Michigan law, which was passed in 1995, provides liability protection for drug companies if their products and labeling comply with FDA standards. Some Republicans and business groups support it because they say it protects companies from unreasonable and costly lawsuits at a time when the state is struggling economically.
But Dan Farough, executive director of Progress Michigan, which is advocating for the law's repeal, tells the paper that the law "strips people of their right to protect themselves and their loved ones.'' Instead, it protects drug companies and their massive profits, he says, adding that "there is no brighter light that can shine on the special-interest-group core."
Richter, who said her husband was a healthy General Motors retiree before taking Vioxx, said she won't stop her campaign until something is done. "I would not want this to happen to anyone else's family,'' she said.