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Big Pharma Get Pass For Selling Dangerous Drugs
Santa Monica, CA -- Legislation passed today by the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 5) will fail to lower doctors' rising medical malpractice insurance premiums while limiting the rights of patients injured by medical negligence, said the nonprofit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). HR 5 caps the amount patients can recover for loss of sight, fertility, and other non-economic losses, and immunizes pharmaceutical companies from accountability when they knowingly sell dangerous drugs.

The bill fails to mandate lower malpractice insurance rates for doctors, or regulate excessive insurance premiums, two reforms that have successfully lowered insurance costs in California. Instead, the bill would deny juries the right to provide full compensation to injured victims of medical errors and dangerous medications. A report released by FTCR (online at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/malpractice/rp/1008.pdf) illustrates how California insurance reform initiative Proposition 103 lowered doctors' malpractice premiums after a damage cap, similar to today's proposal, failed.

"Taking away the rights of patients injured by negligent doctors and immunizing pharmaceutical companies that sell dangerous drugs will not lower doctors' malpractice rates. The problem is price-gouging by insurers, not compensation for victims, and this bill ignores the companies doing the overcharging," said Carmen Balber of FTCR. "HR 5 would let pharmaceutical companies who lie about unsafe drugs, dangerous doctors, and the companies that insure them off the hook."

Several recent studies analyzing medical malpractice claims and premiums have revealed that as malpractice premiums skyrocket, claims have remained stable, meaning steady profit increases for insurers. And, recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court threw out that state's damage cap, declaring it "unreasonable and arbitrary because it is not rationally related to the legislative objective of lowering medical malpractice premiums."

The insurance industry gave $19,668,219 to members of Congress and the pharmaceutical industry donated $10,254,111 in 2004, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In California, medical malpractice premiums rose 450% in the 13 years after a damage cap was enacted. Only when California voters passed insurance reform with Proposition 103 in 1988 did malpractice premiums drop and then stabilize. Proposition 103 requires insurance companies to open their books and justify premiums to the Insurance Commissioner before they are set. FTCR has saved California doctors over $60 million in rate increases since 2003 under Proposition 103's rate challenge provisions.

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