December 21, 2005

Bill Gives Immunity to Pharma, Preempts State Laws Banning Thimerosal

From A-Champ:

Frist Gives Parents the Slip Again; Leadership in Congress Muscles Drug Company Liability Provision into Unrelated Defense Bill

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Bill Gives Immunity to Pharma; Also Preempts State Laws Banning Thimerosal

Sen. Cantwell said on the floor of Senate today that people all over the country are watching - specifically referencing the drug company immunity provisions. Your response has been overwhelming - tell your friends and family to send a message
It will make a difference. Thank you.

In the middle of the night, Senator Frist used raw political muscle to impose sweeping, never-before-seen immunity for drug companies into the Department of Defense Appropriations Conference Report. The language constitutes an unprecedented wish-list of liability protections that will allow the industry to recklessly injure or kill Americans with contaminated drugs and vaccines and never be held accountable. This language offers more special interest immunity than any bill ever considered by either body of the Congress. You can read the provision by going here and downloading a pdf.

The language also would allow preemption of state laws providing for safe vaccines, such as laws banning mercury in vaccines. If the President or his admininistration say so this law would allow the production of vaccines containing mercury even if your state has a law banning it. The people who backed this legislation have no respect for states like California, Iowa, Illinois, Delaware, Missouri and New York, whose citizens have sent a clear message: KEEP MERCURY OUT OF VACCINES.
Below is a list of the key provisions in this bill. If any of them bother you TAKE ACTION, send a letter, or fax or use A-CHAMP's email messaging system. Use our sample letter or write your own.
You can find your Senator's contact information here:
We especially need our Republican parents and friends to write their Senators. Without the critical support of key Republican Senators the Eli Lilly Rider, immunity legislation that was enacted in 2002, would never have been repealed. (Thank you Senators Collins, Snowe and Chafee, among others).

Key Provisions of the immunity provisions in HR 2863 that will be considered by the Senate this week (Senate number is not assigned yet).

Take Action!
Six objectionable things that the new immunity legislation will do:

1) Allows use of Thimerosal in vaccines:
If the Secretary of Health and Human Services designates that a vaccine is a "covered countermeasure" thimerosal can be used in the vaccine, even if your state has banned Thimerosal. Any state legislation covering vaccines would be rendered ineffective and Federal law would preempt all state provisions.

2) Immunity for ALL Drugs and Vaccines:
The language could potentially apply to any drug, vaccine, or biological product that the Secretary of HHS deems a “covered countermeasure.” This list could include any commercial drug like Tylenol and is not limited in any way to drugs or vaccines meant to treat a pandemic like avian flu.

3) Immunity at ANY Time:
The immunity language depends on the Secretary making a declaration that a health condition is causing a public health emergency or that some health condition could become an emergency at some point in the future. There is nothing that limits this declaration to an actual health emergency or to an actual pandemic illness. This declaration could occur at any time for almost any reason.

4) Immunity for Harm Caused by a Manufacturer’s Bad Conduct:
The immunity applies no matter what the drug company did wrong. Even if a drug company operates a dirty facility in which a batch of vaccines is contaminated, and that vaccine kills thousands of Americans, the drug company is immune from liability.

5) Immunity for Anything but Assault or Murder:
The language explicitly protects drug companies who act recklessly or who are grossly negligent, and would allow a claim to go forward only where a drug company acted with such willful misconduct as to constitute criminal assault or murder. Anything less than criminal conduct is protected.

6) Immunity for Murder unless the Secretary or the Attorney General Say Otherwise:
Even if a drug company has acted with “willful misconduct” as defined by this language, the drug company is still immune from accountability unless the Secretary or the Attorney General initiates an enforcement action against the drug company and that action is pending at the time a claim is filed or the action resulted in some form of punishment. So even if a drug company knowingly kills thousands of people, if no official enforcement action is taken, that company is still immune.
Take Action to Stop this Outrageous Legislation!

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