You need to read the article headed, "Dozens sue pharmacy, but compensation uncertain" (Marietta Times, Dec. 14, page A3). You need to read it because it provides a direct antidote - the truth, that is - to propaganda about legal and regulatory issues related to drugs and medical treatments.
You've heard of frivolous lawsuits? Of course, you have; we hear about them all the time. According to some critics, that's the only kind of lawsuit that really exists.
Well, here's a case of non-frivolous lawsuits going forward, brought by some of the victims of the meningitis-laced fungus sold as a steroid by a New England based manufacturing pharmacy.
The story in the paper details the victims' injuries and illnesses; over 500 victims are involved. So far, 50 federal lawsuits have been filed in nine states against the New England Compounding Center (NECC), the company that manufactured and sold the drugs. NECC is, of course, a corporation. After the lawsuits, it will fade into the night and cease to exist. In this sense, corporations, unlike people, escape the consequences of their misdeeds.
According to the story, it is clear that NECC's insurance is inadequate to cover all the legitimate claims in full. People's lives and their health have been ruined, but there isn't enough money to cover all the losses. There was no regulation requiring adequate insurance.
So, is the head of NECC out there with big rolls of money, seeking to compensate victims for his negligence, making amends for his lack of insurance, being a good citizen? Are you kidding? That's why he set up as a corporation in the first place: so he wouldn't have any personal liability. He's gonna walk away - free and clear.
That is the damages side of this situation.
Now, how about regulation? How does a drug manufacturer avoid federal regulation and inspection? How did NECC get away with this in the first place?
The problem, apparently, is that compounding pharmacies of this type do not answer to the FDA, the way that drug manufacturing corporations do. In other words, there is not enough federal regulation.
Corporations constantly seek to avoid federal regulation. NECC was successful in this case, and we see the consequences.
They tell us that all we have to do is get business out from under federal regulation and our economy will soar. Can we trust business to police itself? Of course not.
Who needs the Feds? I do, for one. Just remember this NECC case the next time your doctor lines you up for a shot. Where did it come from?
L. P. McGovern