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Georgia Introduces Pharmaceutical Immunity Bill

Earlier this month, we reported on Governor Sonny Perdue’s proposed legislation granting immunity from civil liability to pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers if their products had already received FDA approval. Earlier this month, a bill was introduced outlining many of the same proposals that the governor mentioned, and underscoring the fears of patients, civil justice advocate and Georgia product liability attorneys.

The Bill, Senate Bill 101 grants immunity to these companies from any injury lawsuit brought by Georgia residents if the injury was caused by a pharmaceutical drug or medical device that had FDA approval. It’s clearly aimed at attracting Big Pharma investment into the state with civil liability immunity being the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What it essentially does, however, is sacrifice patients’ rights to hold these companies accountable for injuries or deaths caused by their products. At the risk of sounding dramatic, we believe victims of device and pharmaceutical injury will be at the mercy of these companies.

The bill relies on a foundation that has been found to be increasingly fragile in recent years. FDA approval of drugs and devices has come under the scanner after several drugs and devices were forced off the market when injuries and risks associated with their use came to light. Do the names Vioxx, Heparin and Medtronic defibrillator leads ring a bell?

The FDA itself has admitted that it has been unable to cope with the increasing challenges of globalization, including its ability to inspect foreign facilities that manufacture ingredients used in pharmaceutical drugs. In a dismal product safety scene like this, product liability lawsuits are the only thing protecting Georgia’s residents from dangerous drugs and medical devices. Take that away and you have a scenario in which the FDA continues to dither, and pharmaceutical companies are free to push inadequately tested drugs and devices into the American market.

The promise of more jobs and prosperity in Georgia also seems like a hollow one.Michigan, the only other state that has civil liability immunity for pharmaceutical companies, has actually seen a number of its pharmaceutical jobs move out of the state after the immunity bill was passed. So it’s fair for Georgia’s personal injury lawyers to ask our legislators- how exactly does Bill 101 benefit our people?

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