Friday, February 06, 2009

Nigerian Poison Probe: No Way To Treat Big Business

Nigerian authorities are bringing "negligence charges" against officials at a pharmaceutical company after the company distributed a tainted batch of teething medicine, killing 85 babies.
That's exactly the sort of thing the United States wouldn't tolerate. Wait — I should have been clearer: the poisoning we might well tolerate, but the legal action? Pfft. The strategy we've seen Stateside these past eight years is that we take the Food & Drug Administration, an agency created by Congress to oversee the review and market approval of pharmaceuticals, and load it with industry-friendly political appointees who rubber-stamp drug approvals.

Then, when a drug kills somebody and a lawsuit is brought, the drug companies argue that the FDA has the exclusive authority to pronounce on the safety of drugs it has approved — such that state courts can't award damages to the victim. The Supreme Court has already held that FDA approvals for medical devices preempt tort claims; in the coming months it's widely expected to extend this immunity to pharmaceuticals, too.

It's a brilliant one-two punch, when you think about it. Give the agency sovereignty over questions of safety, to the exclusion of any other government authority. Then remove the agency's teeth.

That, friends, is how you run a country that is hospitable to innovation. These Nigerians have a lot to learn. And you can bet that jobs will be lost — and small children will be rubbing their gums — as a result of this "lawyerization" of Nigerian industry.

1 comment:

Mithridates said...

I agree with your post, for the most part. The current system is a joke and it's one case where Obama v Bush is a no-brainer. Whatever the Big O does in this regard has to be an improvement over the status quo.

But you're over-the-top suggestion that nothing would happen in the US if 85 children were killed is just that. But I suppose we've got a test case. No, it's not a drug company poisoning kids, but a peanut company. Apparently these assholes knew their product was contaminated and shipped it anyway. If so, someone had better go to jail for a long time or I'll be inclined to accept your over-the-top suggestion as, well, under-the-top.

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