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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Business groups oppose pharma-immunity repeal
(2008-02-07)
(wgvu) - Business groups oppose pharma-immunity repeal

Feb. 14, 2008

By Mark Sanchez
marks@mbusinessreview.com

Business groups are taking issue with Gov. Jennifer Granholm's
renewed call for repeal of a 1996 state law that provides liability
immunity to drug makers.

Echoing past sentiments about a three-bill package first introduced and
quickly passed in the Democratic-controlled House a year ago, the
life-sciences trade association MichBio and the Michigan Chamber of Com
merce claim the repeal would hurt investments in the industry at a time
when Michigan needs to diversify its economy.

Reversing current law would send a strong message that Michigan is
not open for business, forcing new and existing biotech companies to
look elsewhere to invest, MichBio Executive Director Stephen
Rapundalo wrote last week in a letter to Granholm. We have made so
much progress in Michigan, especially in the face of difficult economic
times. I know the state would like to see the growth in the
life-sciences community continue, but changing these laws could do
irreparable harm to all of the progress that we have made.

In her State of the State address last week, the governor urged
legislators to pass the repeal proposal, which now sits idle in the
Republican-controlled state Senate. Granholm and repeal supporters say
the law, enacted under former Gov. John Engler and unique in the nation,
unfairly prevents Michigan consumers from suing pharmaceutical companies
when they're harmed by defective drugs.

Consumers in every other state have the right to hold drug companies
accountable when their products lead to injury and even death. Michigan
consumers should have that right, too, Granholm said.

The law provides drug companies immunity from product-liability
lawsuits if a drug received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration. Consumers may press a claim if they can show the company
provided false information or made efforts to deceive federal
regulators.

Proponents of the law argue that drug companies face a rigorous
approval process and that juries are ill-equipped to handle the issue of
drug safety.

Companies that knowingly try to mislead consumers must continue to
be held accountable, said Wendy Block, director of health policy and
human resources for the Michigan chamber.

But life-science companies whose mission is to research and develop
drugs with the purpose of helping people lead healthier, more-productive
lives and have followed and met rigorous FDA approval standards should
not be subjected to endless litigation.

Jesse Green, a lawyer and director of communications for the
trial-lawyer trade group Michigan Association for Justice, counters that
federal court rulings have denied claims by Michigan residents against
drug companies because only the FDA has the legal standing to allege
fraud.

That makes the immunity absolute, Green said. Repeal of the law, he
said, is long overdue.

It's a bit of a ridiculous situation at the far end of the
spectrum, he said.

Green dismisses claims that the repeal would hurt the life-sciences
industry in Michigan. He notes that the immunity law didn't prevent
Pfizer Inc.'s decision a year ago to pull 2,700 jobs out of Michigan
and move them to other states.

It's silly to talk about it in terms of generating jobs, Green
said.
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