Preemption debate heats up

That little legal argument known as preemption is back in the news. You know the one: That FDA approval, being federal, supersedes any state-court lawsuits over blessed drugs and devices. Pushed by the Bush Administration, it's set for a Supreme test this fall when the U.S.'s highest court hears a case in which Wyeth claims it shouldn't be liable for claims about an FDA-approved med.

The latest? Supreme Court justices have had to recuse themselves from various cases lately because of their pharma-stock holdings. Yesterday, it was Samuel Alito bowing out because of Bristol-Myers stock. (Four of the nine justices had to sit out of that case, which involved a laundry list of big U.S. companies.) Two months ago, it was Chief Justice John Roberts sitting out a case involving Pfizer. Given the fact that ratifying preemption as a legal defense wouldn't simply help Wyeth, but all drugmakers, will the two men recuse themselves from that case, too? Inquiring minds want to know.

Meanwhile, Congress is dipping into the preemption fray with a hearing on the concept tomorrow. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform--Rep. Henry Waxman's group--is calling a bunch of preemption opponents to testify. On the roster: Actor Dennis Quaid, who's suing Baxter over a heparin overdose given to his infant twins.

- see the item at Pharmalot
- check out the hearing announcement