North Carolina Drug Company Immunity Bill
Written by Faith Anderson on April 5, 2011
Nature of the NC Drug Company Immunity Law
The drug company immunity law is based upon the presumption that, if a drug is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the drug manufacturing company should not be held accountable for the potentially harmful nature of the medication. This establishes the concept that as long as a drug company can get their drug approved by the FDA, they are in the clear regarding anything that may happen in the future. This mindset may promote the implementation of misleading practices by pharmaceutical companies in order to ensure FDA approval.
The FDA is responsible for evaluating the safety of hundreds of new drugs, and cannot possibly shoulder the brunt of the liability. The FDA in turn relies largely upon the drug manufacturing company’s research and clinical trials in order to determine any severe or potentially fatal adverse drug effects. Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies employ deceptive practices in order to expedite the FDA approval process and to make their drug more quickly available to the public. This puts consumers at risk of suffering severe and even life-threatening consequences without their knowledge.
With the approval of this new drug company immunity law, North Carolina would join ranks with Michigan, which passed a similar law in 1995, restricting Michigan residents from holding drug manufacturing companies accountable for selling dangerous or defective drugs. The North Carolina bill is part of a larger tort reform package which would put a $250,000 cap on the amount of non-economic damages a victim can collect from the defendant in a tort lawsuit. The bill also intends to allow the state to step in under any circumstances in which a jury awards punitive damages over $100,000, and collect from the plaintiff any money in excess of that amount.
North Carolina has already passed a bill which established a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages, but included no protection for drug companies. This law allowed North Carolina residents who sustained serious adverse side effects resulting from the use of a dangerous drug to seek compensation for their injuries from the pharmaceutical company who manufactured the medication. This previous law also did not contain any stipulations which allowed the state to collect a portion of a plaintiff’s punitive awards.
Danger of Drug Company Immunity Bills
Michigan and North Carolina are the only two states in the country who have proposed immunity bills for pharmaceutical companies, stripping individuals of their right to seek financial compensation for injuries, illnesses, or even death caused by dangerous drugs. Drug companies are responsible for manufacturing and marketing safe medications, and they should be held liable for any harm caused by their defective drugs. Immunity bills such as the one pending in North Carolina allow negligent drug companies to continue to profit from their dangerous products, free of liability, and prevent victims of serious injuries from collecting the reimbursement they are entitled to.
Without establishing any consequences for negligent drug companies who produce dangerous medications, these companies can continue to manufacture and market defective products to individuals in North Carolina and Michigan who are unable to file lawsuits against the companies in turn. Supporters of this immunity bill and others of its kind claim that the pharmaceutical industry needs protection from defective drug litigation. It seems less likely that a billion dollar drug industry would need total protection, compared to the innocent consumers in North Carolina and Michigan, who are vulnerable to life-altering injuries resulting from FDA-approved prescription drugs, and are unable to exercise their right to seek financial compensation from the drug company responsible for their injuries. By proposing this drug company immunity statute, North Carolina lawmakers are perpetuating a pro-corporation, anti-consumer policy, which disregards their duty to protect the rights, health and welfare of innocent citizens.