September 2010 Archives

September 27, 2010

FDA's Avandia Restrictions - A "Victory" For Consumer Safety

In a victory for consumers, the FDA finally restricted sales of Avandia in the United States (as well as suspending all use in Europe.)

However, as noted in the New York Times, the dangers associated with Avandia only came to light after a cardiologist analyzed data from clinical trials that GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of the drug, had been forced to post on its website as a result of the legal settlement. "Such public postings are increasingly the norm which means that drug makers can no longer easily hide or control scientific information about their medicines." (Emphasis added.)

After engaging in an 11-year cover up of these health risks, "the decision brought an end to one of the worst drug safety tragedies in our lifetime." One study estimated that from 1999 to 2009, more than 47,000 people taking Avandia needlessly suffered a heart attack, stroke or heart failure, or died."

Despite the victory, the FDA's actions still display willingness to compromise with the drug industry. As noted by Dr. Sidney Wolfe, Director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, "The FDA made progress by highlighting the risks of using Avandia and severely restricting its use, but it didn't go far enough. Too many people could still be exposed to this dangerous product.

As New Mexico personal injury attorneys concerned about dangerous drugs, we agree. Restricting Avandia is a major step forward for consumers. However, the fact that the drug remains on the market and that the dangers of Avandia would not have come to life but for litigation underscores how far we still have to go to protect citizens from corporate greed and conflicts of interests that place profits ahead of consumer safety.

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September 13, 2010

Malpractice "Reforms" Unrelated To The Practice Of Defensive Medicine

In direct contradiction to claims that medical malpractice caps are necessary on pain and suffering in order to reduce the costs of doctors practicing "defensive medicine, " a recent study released in the policy journal Health Affairs found that many of the popular proposals suggested for reducing medical malpractice are unrelated to the practice of defensive medicine. In fact, capping damages for "pain and suffering" would do little to reduce defensive medicine spending.

The study found that although defensive medicine spending is less than 2 percent of annual health care spending, the author stated "we're spending a large amount of money every year on a system that's deeply flawed ... Many injured patients never get compensated at all." A second study in the issue noted found that any savings to be gleaned from tort reform would be low.

Capping damages for pain and suffering was not associated with a significant difference in the physicians' perceived risk of malpractice claims.

With medical errors occurring in nearly 10% of all inpatient surgeries, capping damages only serves to further harm those injured by medical negligence.

As New Mexico attorneys concerned about medical malpractice, we believe more emphasis should be placed on reducing medical errors, such as missed diagnosis, birth injuries, and surgical errors. As this recent study illustrates, misplaced arguments about "defensive spending" do little to improve what matters most - patient safety.

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