West Virginia's drug war

By The West Virginia Record | Jul 13, 2007

Plaintiff's lawyers love to hide their most potentially self-enriching lawsuit offensives behind the facade of "consumer safety," and for good reason. Crusading to make us all "safe" plays a heck of a lot better with the public than "I'm doing this to make myself filthy rich."

Of course, sometimes the lawyers just cannot help but reveal their true motives, if just a bit. Like new West Virginia Trial Lawyers' Association President Teresa Toriseva, whose mouth seemed to water on the page in a recent press release that cheered a State Supreme Court decision making it easier for her members to sue drug makers in our state courts.

"Our Supreme Court has sent a clear message to the pharmaceutical industry that in West Virginia we will not allow billion-dollar drug companies to hide behind doctors and blame doctors when patients are not warned about the risks associated with their prescriptions," Toriseva proclaimed.

Toriseva and her ilk like the big game because it pays the best. "Billion dollar" companies shell out exponentially bigger settlements than "million dollar" ones or a measly M.D. ever would. That means exponentially bigger legal fees for them, which explains the drool.

Of course, this entire position -- that drug companies can possibly warn drug takers of all the risks involved with their products -- is as misleading as it is disingenuous. Lest people believe her self-serving rhetoric, it's also dangerous to West Virginia patients, especially the ones most dependent on pharmaceutical innovation to make it through the day.

Most of the drugs you and I rely upon are recent inventions. All have known negative side effects, which are outweighed by their known benefits, or they never would survive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and make it to market.

Save a crystal ball, pharmaceutical companies cannot possibly know all risks their products pose, as they have no idea how they will stand the test of time until they actually do. And if we did try to squeeze all the risk out of them, we'd have none.

Moreover, erring on the side of caution by "over warning" of drug risks often has a net negative effect on the collective public health, as it dissuades the urgently sick from taking drugs they desperately need. Or, as the FDA warns, these warnings "can erode and disrupt the careful and truthful representation of benefits and risks that prescribers need to make appropriate judgments about drug use."

But who cares about "careful and truthful" when you're squaring off against a "billion dollar" company?

Ms. Toriseva and her fellow warrior-lawyers are too busy licking their lips, plotting their own parallel, for-profit drug regulation regime here in West Virginia.

They might be careful which drug company ox they gore -- it could be yours.

More News

The Record Network