October 19, 2005

Burr-Enzi Bill

I am a big fan of the free market. Make a really good product, everyone will come a-runnin'. Make a really bad product, you end up seeing your customers in court. It is a simple but powerful construct. It works to keep people on the up-an-up and when you remove it, bad things happen.

It is a sad fact of human nature, if we don't think we will be held accountable, we are far less likely to behave well. If you knew you could never be audited, would you pay your taxes? Honestly and on time?

Corporations use cost-benifit analysis to make decisions. If the cost of recalling a car that doesn't work properly will exceede the cost that the lawyers estimate that the company will have to pay in court damages to those injured as a result of the defect, then they tend not to recall the car. They just let people get hurt and take their chances in court.

What would happen if you removed car manufacturers responsibility for making sure cars were safe and didn't even make them share crash test information with the public? What would happen to those cost-benefit ratios?

If the Vioxx disaster happened with Merck knowing full well that the kind of huge lawsuits that are happening now were a possibility, and still chose to knowingly put out a painkiller that caused heart attacks and death, then what in the hell is going to stop them from putting out bad products when they can't be sued?

Oh... and don't miss the last paragraph about the new health agency that won't be subject to FOIA. BONUS!

From The Schafer Report:
"Burr-Enzi Bill Gives Pharma Greenlight To Ignore Product Safety

In July, Senator Richard Burr Defended Vioxx, claiming media blew associative health risks out of proportion; his newest legislation slams door on vaccine safety"

From The National Autism Association:

"Washington, DC – New legislation is said to go into mark-up today. Much like legislation introduced by Senator Bill Frist in the past, the Biodefense Bill gives immunity to vaccine-makers and softens guidelines for product safety. The bill also grants profitable incentives to the pharmaceutical industry, and permission to suppress safety data.

In a statement today issued by advocates for children’s rights and safety, parents say that Burr and Enzi are capitalizing on fear and intimidation, and that drug companies are using generous campaign donations to seduce Congress into awarding the pharmaceutical industry unprecedented liability protection, thereby removing any financial incentive for manufacturers to produce safe vaccines.

“We’ve seen this before,” says parent Lori McIlwain (Cary, NC). “Whenever a health scare arises, certain political figures use it as an opportunity to provide immunity to drug companies. What’s ironic is that by cushioning safety standards, they are creating an equally detrimental health scare,” she says. McIlwain and other North Carolina parents met with Burr in July. “He was gracious enough to meet with us in person and we were grateful; however, his stance on Vioxx struck us as odd. He defended the drug and blamed the media for its demise,” says McIlwain. “He seemed to side more with compromises on human health, than pushing for optimum health by
way of safe medical products. Now he’s using the media’s coverage of the bird flu to his advantage."

The "Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005", influenced by drug industry lobbyists, abandons children and citizens of this country. It also rewards a pattern of bad behavior by an industry recognized for suppressing safety data on medical products.

Similar to past legislation, this bill will once again spawn opposition. Parents are willing to go back to Washington and launch a media campaign. Back in 2002, a campaign that targeted Senator Bill Frist for his liability–protection legislation raised enough awareness to gather more parents for the current fight. “We have an army now,” says NAA Executive Director Jo Pike. “There will be no dollar-figure placed on the health of children."

The bill creates a new agency called the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) and specifically states that FOIA will not apply to their duties, activities and advisory boards. According to the legislation, states will lose rights their rights to hear vaccine-related court cases and documents will be unavailable to the public."


Wade Rankin said...

I can just hear the vaccine apologists' cry now: "But they're creating an agency to research biomedical stuff. Look, it's even a part of their name."

I'm sure the justification for the FOIA immunity is to protect patient confidentiality, as if an advisory board will be discussing individual patients by name. I guess one lesson was learned from Simpsonwood -- don't keep the record where someone can get it.

This one stinks.

Ginger Taylor said...

I want to know if and how they plan on getting around the Federal Advisory Committee Act. All committees advising any federal agency on policy making has to have open hearings.

Do they just call the whole thing National Security and expect us to roll up our sleves when someone yells bioterror?