Flu Vaccine-Makers' Liability Limited in U.S. Senate Measure
Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Drugmakers would be protected from lawsuits related to flu vaccines under a $453 billion defense budget passed by the U.S. Senate.
The provision, added to the legislation last night by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, would require patients seeking to sue a drugmaker to prove the company engaged in willful misconduct when producing a vaccine. The measure fails to provide compensation for injuries or deaths related to a vaccine, said Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.
``Generally around here we measure who the winners are and who the losers are,'' Kennedy said on the floor of the Senate. ``Drug companies come out time and time again, but never, never, ever, ever like they have with this sweetheart deal.''
The measure may benefit companies including French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis SA, the largest supplier of U.S. flu vaccines, as well as London-based drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc and the U.S. biotechnology company Chiron Corp., which are trying to develop a vaccine against avian influenza as governments try to prepare for a possible pandemic.
Kennedy said the liability waiver would be broader, covering vaccines related to any ``epidemic'' such as diabetes or obesity. As a result, the provision could apply to ``almost any vaccine, drug or device,'' Kennedy said.
The defense budget for the 2006 fiscal year passed after lawmakers removed a provision that would allow oil companies to drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The legislation also includes $29 billion for reconstruction of New Orleans and Gulf Coast areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina and $3.8 billion for combating avian influenza that was added by Frist.
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