GOP's Big Pharma Protection to Cost NC Taxpayers "Hundreds of Millions"
ATTORNEY GENERAL TRIES TO STAVE OFF COSTLY GOP MISSTEP, BUT IS REBUFFED BY TORT COMMITTEE
REP. RHYNE'S BILL WOULD LEAVE NC TAXPAYERS HOLDING THE BAG FOR CORPORATE INTERESTS
RALEIGH, N.C., April 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Attorney General Roy Cooper warned the House Special Select Committee on Tort Reform today that a measure giving immunity to pharmaceutical companies could cost North Carolina taxpayers what one legislator described as "hundreds of millions of dollars."
Still, the GOP-controlled committee, led by Rep. Johnathan Rhyne, approved the controversial measure. HB 542 could go to the House floor for a vote next week.
The stunning exchange occurred when Rep. Jennifer Weiss floated an amendment to remove the immunity measure for pharma companies that sell harmful drugs. A member of Attorney General Cooper's staff then stood and expressed the concerns of the NC Department of Justice. The AG's office later put those concerns -- related to Medicaid and the State Health Plan as well as consumer recovery -- into writing:
"North Carolina taxpayers and consumers could lose millions in legal settlements won because of illegal drug marketing and other violations if House Bill 542 becomes law ... North Carolina could become only the second state in the country where pharmaceutical manufacturers could be allowed to do or say anything about a drug as long as it has basic FDA approval."
Rep. Rhyne acknowledged talking to Attorney General Cooper, but brushed off the concerns with what consumer advocates argued was a dangerous misreading of a law in Michigan, the only state to have passed the extreme legislation under consideration in North Carolina.
"Republican leaders in the House are siding with corporate interests over everyday taxpayers," said Dick Taylor of the NC Advocates for Justice. "That Republicans would choose to cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars to help pharmaceutical companies during such hard economic times is beyond perplexing.
But even more disturbing is the fact that under this bill, North Carolinians -- like people in Michigan, but unlike the citizens of every other state -- would be totally unable to recover damages in cases of death or injury due to bad drugs. The bill benefits multinational drug companies at the expense of North Carolina consumers, and does nothing to help the North Carolina economy."
Under Rep. Rhyne's bill, drug companies could not be sued by those harmed by defective and dangerous drugs unless the company obtained FDA approval by fraud or bribery. Even if the product is later found to be harmful or deadly, the drug manufacturer -- so long as it had FDA approval -- cannot be held liable.
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SOURCE NC Advocates for Justice
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