Senate Bill 101: legal bailout for drug companies?

Despite decades of dangerous recalls and fraudulent drug trials related to FDA-approved drugs and medical devices, Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) filed Senate Bill 101 which would extend immunity from civil lawsuits filed in Georgia to Georgia-based pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers of FDA-approved products.

Cowsert is a floor leader for Gov. Perdue, who has claimed that SB 101 would help attract pharmaceutical companies to Georgia and create new job opportunities.

“This bill lets drug companies off the hook, plain and simple, even if the product hurts or kills someone” said Georgia Watch executive director Allison Wall. “Georgians would have no recourse, no hope of accountability, period.”

The only state to implement this type of legislation is Michigan, whose unemployment rates were the highest in the nation at the beginning of 2009. According to some Michigan lawmakers, pharmaceutical companies have actually moved out of the state since the passage of their drug immunity law in 1995.

This bill was touted in Michigan as a job creator,” said John LaMacchia, aide to Sen. John Gleason (D-Lansing). “However, since its enactment, the presence of pharmaceutical companies has shrunk. The large Pfizer facility in Ann Arbor down-sized and no new companies are moving in,” he said. Gov

Not only have 2,100 jobs been lost after the Pfizer plant in Ann Arbor closed, but 250 more were lost when the company’s plant in Kalamazoo down-sized. It’s unclear to me why Pfizer is leaving MI – but what is apparent is that pharmaceutical companies don’t let lawsuit immunity dictate their operations and therefore SB 101 will probably not encourage Big Pharma to move to Georgia.

In recent years, Vioxx, fen-phen and Bextra, among other FDA-approved drugs, were recalled after harming or killing patients. Before being removed from shelves in 2004, Vioxx injured at least 139,000 people.

“Essentially, this is a desperate bid for new biotech business at the expense of our legal rights,” said Wall. “That’s a dangerous gamble for the Governor, risking the health and safety of Georgians against the interests of corporations.”