Actor to lawmakers: Let patients bring pharma suits

Dennis Quaid, whose newborn daughters were accidentally given a nearly-lethal dose of the blood-thinning drug herapin, told lawmakers yesterday that without the right to sue pharmaceutical companies, consumers will becomes “uninformed and uncompensated lab rats.”

“Like many Americans, I believed that a big problem in our country was frivolous lawsuits,” Quaid told members of the House Reform and Government Oversight Committee. “But now I know that the courts are often the only path to justice.”

Quaid’s testimony comes as the Food and Drug Administration has increasingly stepping into lawsuits against drugmakers, arguing that its regulatory authority in approving drugs supersedes state laws – including civil tort claims that drugs are unsafe.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to weigh in on the issue new year with the case Wyeth v. Levine. This year, the Court held in Riegel v. Medtronic that state law tort claims alleging unsafe medical devices are preempted by FDA approval.

Lawsuit limits have been included in 51 rules proposed or adopted during the last few years of the Bush Administration. The civil claim limits governing a wide array of areas – from drugs and medical devices, to cars, railroads, and food.

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