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Avandia: “Lawsuit Abuse”? No Way; “Jackpot Justice”? Absurd!

Those of you who like to scream “lawsuit abuse” every time you hear about a large verdict, might be interested to know that there are drugs in the marketplace, approved by the FDA, that are seriously flawed, can cause serious illness, even death, yet are still being sold, for huge corporate gain, in pharmacies across the country. An example of one such dangerous drug is Avandia, a diabetes drug.

Two days ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began hearings to assess the risks, dangers and and side effects, to determine whether this drug should be taken off the market. Avandia has been dispensed in pharmacies and prescribed by physicians for more than 10 years. It treats Type 2 diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels. However, in doing so, it is reported that it also increases the risks of congestive heart failure and heart attacks, bone fractures, and liver failure. The side effects to the heart and liver, obviously, can kill the patient that the drug intended to treat.

Not surprisingly, numerous lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturer of Avandia, GlaxoSmithKline. Recently, just before the first set of jury trials were to commence, approximately half of an estimated 13,000 filed cases were settled.

As to the effects of Avandia on the heart, the FDA states that there is:

“a potentially significant increase in the risk of heart attack and heart-related deaths in patients taking Avandia.”

If fact, data provided to the FDA by Glaxo suggests as much as a 30-40% increase in the risk of heart attacks and/or other heart-related illnesses and death. Back in 2007, the FDA mandated that bold print warnings be placed on Avandia packaging to warn of these potential risks.

As to the effects of Avandia on the liver, Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, indicates that Avandia use has resulted in 14 cases of liver failure leading to 12 reported deaths. Public Citizen is urging the FDA to ban the drug.

A Swiss research study has linked Avandia with a significant increase in bone fractures. The study reviewed the medical records of 1,000 patients who took Avandia and suffered fractures between 1994 and 2005. Fracture incidents for Avandia diabetics were significantly higher than diabetics who were not on the drug.

The overwhelming evidence in the medical community is that Avandia is dangerous, yet it remains on the market. Why? You guessed it: Money! The recent lawsuit settled for the huge-sounding amount of $460 Million. You would think that the trial lawyers would be shouting “victory” from mountaintops all over the country, wouldn’t you? Instead, Glaxo declared “victory” as the massive settlement amount to approximately $45,000 per plaintiff. Obviously, their reaction suggests that the company makes so much money on the drug that the lawsuit payout pales in comparison. Meanwhile, if you are an Avandia user with heart and liver problems, where do you turn for support? Would you trade a healthy heart or liver for $45,000?

In Michigan, where I live and once practiced law, an Avandia user will get exactly zero if he/she pursues litigation against GlaxoSmithKline. That’s because Michigan’s version of tort reform included complete immunity to drug companies whose products have been FDA approved, regardless of how dangerous these products are ultimately proven to be. Why? Because state legislators turned their backs on the injured and disabled in an effort to entice drug manufacturers to relocate in Michigan. The result? One company left the state; not a single pharmaceutical company relocated here. And, we are left with thousands of victims who cannot seek compensation for their serious conditions. They must, instead, survive on government assistance. Please tell me, again, why Republicans, would be in support of policies that give private industry a free pass for its neglect and abuse and shift the burden of their mistakes to the government. This is political insanity!

So, “$460 Million” translates to “$45,000 per plaintiff” or “zero” to a Michigan plaintiff. It is hardly “jackpot justice”, is it? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hierarchy will continue to rail on trial lawyers and innocent victims of these dangerous products and scream “lawsuit abuse” at the tops of their voices. They will continue to cite unusual cases with extraordinary results to argue that the system is broken. They may even cite this $460 Million recovery as an example of a legal system gone wild. My only wish for these people is that they spend the rest of their lives ingesting Avandia and other dangerous drugs that they help keep on the market with their anti- public safety, pro-corporate profit,messages.

Contrary to popular belief, the system is heavily stacked in favor of corporate interests. The only things that keeps an individual or class action plaintiff in the game is his/her gutsy attorney and the fact that they can afford to pursue litigation via the contingency fee contract. Every other aspect of the litigation process favors the defense, especially, the inordinate and obscene length of time that it takes to resolve a case. The defense and/or its insurance company gets to hold onto its money all during this almost decade long process, squeezing the plaintiff, financially, all through the process.

At Lawsuit Financial, we try to even the odds in litigation by providing strategic litigation funding to plaintiff in all types of personal injury cases. Lawsuit funding was created as a tool to assist in helping the plaintiff survive, but it is merely a temporary and perhaps small solution an enormous problem. Besides, everybody hates lawyers, don’t they….? Yes they do, until they need one.