Liberally Conservative

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free....... ~Ronald Reagan~

Monday, August 22, 2005

Misguided Jurors...Why Drug Prices Go Up

A jury whose members said they wanted to "punish" Merck found the company liable and awarded $253.4 million in damages. There was no direct causal link between Vioxx and the arrythmia that the autopsy showed had caused the death of a Texas man whose wife brought the suit. The only evidence for such a link was the speculation from the medical examiner that Vioxx had caused a heart attack that she had not been able to detect and had not bothered to put on the death certificate.
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The only thing this verdict will do is bring on hundreds of lawsuits and make the trial lawyers richer. This verdict comes from a narrow minded group of citizens who believe it necessary to punish corporations on the premise "big business is bad." Justice may be blind, these jurors certainly were.
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Interviews with jurors suggest that many tuned out Merck's arguments and focused instead on evidence they understood: that a big corporation allegedly covered up defects with its product. Evidence in an email, not a publication or formal document, but an email suggesting a problem. This is conclusive evidence?
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According to his death certificate, Robert Ernst died of an arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, not a heart attack. While scientific evidence suggests Vioxx can promote blood clots leading to a heart attack, no data have linked the drug with arrhythmias. Jurors who voted against Merck said much of the science sailed right over their heads.
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Thomas Wheeler, interim chairman of pathology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told the jury that Mr. Ernst's clogged arteries were likely to blame for his heart attack. "He was like a walking time bomb," Dr. Wheeler said. He added, "I think Vioxx had nothing to do absolutely whatsoever with his death." Merck's clinical trials showed an elevated risk of heart attacks but only in persons that took Vioxx in heavy doses for intestinal polyps for 18 months or more. Ernst took Vioxx only for eight months.
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We understand executives lie, but in a case with little scientific evidence and many reasons for a heart attack it's the blame game and Corporate America gets whacked. Unfortunately the Enron's of the world created this misconception leaving private citizens to believe all companies are evil.
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The real losers in this case are the millions of pain sufferers who will now live with their pain and take other drugs which induce internal bleeding, something Vioxx did not contribute to. Justice is blind and medical research will be hindered by this verdict. Lawyers will continue to foam at the mouth and drool over the possiblities of riches, no matter who suffers. folks are left far worse off because of a double whammy: a Food and Drug Administration that yanks too many drugs off the market because it has no idea how to evaluate risk, and individual jurors who think it is their solemn duty to "send a message" to the drug companies on whose products we so desperately depend.
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Richard A. Epstein, James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution states his opinion on this horrendous verdict.
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"I would like to send my message to Mr. Lanier [Prosecutor] and those indignant jurors. It's not from an irate tort professor, but from a scared citizen who is steamed that those 'good people' have imperiled his own health and that of his family and friends. None of you have ever done a single blessed thing to help relieve anybody's pain and suffering. Just do the math to grasp the harm that you've done.
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Understand that no future drug will be free of adverse side effects, nor reach market, without the tough calls that Merck had to make with Vioxx. Your implicit verdict is to shut down the entire quest for new medical therapies. Your verdict says you think that the American public is really better off with just hot-water bottles and leftover aspirin tablets.
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In plain English, Mr. Lanier, you're out of court before you make your opening statement. You've already proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the fancy diagrams that university economists use to explain why the negligence system maximizes social welfare is an academic delusion that clever lawyers use to prop up a broken tort system."

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