Skip to Content

Michigan House Democrats Demand Action on Drug Industry Immunity Bills

Legislators call for action after Supreme Court Vioxx Ruling

LANSING, Mich., Oct. 5, 2011-House Democratic lawmakers today called on House leaders to discharge and pass legislation that would repeal a state law that gives drug companies complete immunity when their products harm or kill patients. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette was invited to join the press conference but never responded and did not attend.

The Michigan Supreme Court recently refused to hear a drug immunity suit filed by the Michigan Attorney General who wanted to sue Merck to recoup $20 million the state paid the company for Vioxx prescriptions for Medicaid patients. Back in 2008, the Michigan Attorney General filed suit against Merck after trials found that the pain-killer didn’t work and increased the risk of heart attacks in those who used the drug. The Court of Appeals at that time said that this was a product liability action and dismissed the suit because of Michigan’s law giving drug companies immunity if their products are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which Vioxx was. When the Supreme Court recently refused to take the case this year they upheld the Court of Appeals’ decision.

“Once again, our courts have upheld an unethical law that puts big business ahead of the safety and health of Michigan residents,” said State Rep. Lisa Brown (West Bloomfield). “It is time to repeal this unfair law and give Michigan residents the rights that everyone else in the nation currently has: the ability to hold drug companies accountable for products that harm, and sometimes even kill, patients. I will continue to urge House Leadership to put this bill to a vote and restore the rights of our citizens and our state.”

Brown is the sponsor of House Bill 4440 which would repeal Michigan’s law that gives companies complete immunity in Michigan when their products harm or kill if the drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). House Democrats today tried to discharge the House Bills 4440 and 4650 from the House Committee on the Judiciary. The Democrats’ discharge motion was voted down and the bills remain stalled in committee.

“Michigan residents have suffered under this law, and now the state is being told it cannot recoup the taxpayer dollars it paid to Merck through the Medicaid program for this ineffective and dangerous drug,” said State Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton (Huntington Woods). “At a time when the state is cutting programs in order to save money, it seems that repealing laws that unnecessarily cost the state millions of dollars would be the logical course of action. We need House leadership to vote the drug immunity repeal legislation out of committee and support these bills so that we can protect our citizens and our precious, scarce state dollars.”

Posted: October 2011