Does the drug Belviq cause cancer? Are patients being injured by this medication? Recent research casts a big shadow over this drug. We are closely watching current developments.
We spend much of our lives at work. For many of us that means going to the office, factory or construction site. We see and speak with other people throughout the day.
Truck driving is different. Truckers may spend long, solitary hours on the road. Miles and miles of highway pass as the hours turn from day to night. In past articles, I’ve written about some of the health problems commonly seen in truckers. Many of those health problems are tied to long, sedentary work days.
I’m not writing to debate the pros or cons of medical marijuana. I’ll leave that to others. It’s a debate playing out in many states. Last week, two Alabama Senators (both of whom are doctors) debated the topic in the Senate chamber. One Senator, an anesthesiologist, debated in support of medical marijuana. The other, an obstetrician, debated against it. The Alabama Legislature has been debating bills that would allow medical uses.
Again, I’m not writing to debate the proposed legislation. My blog deals with Alabama personal injury issues. How would legal marijuana impact Alabama workers’ compensation claims? I believe the issue intersects personal injury law in a number of ways. From car wrecks to work comp, it’s an issue that will impact claims. For today, let’s talk about possible impacts on work comp.
Impairment or intoxication from drugs and alcohol can be a defense to work-related injury claims in Alabama. While substances like alcohol may be legal (for adults), a delivery driver who injures himself in an accident caused by his own drunk driving is not going to receive full work comp benefits.
I remember listening as the doctor testified about his trips to Las Vegas. That’s where the medical device company took him to “discuss” its product. After these trips to Las Vegas, the doctor returned home and began implanting the product into countless Alabama patients.
At the time, I was surprised. Shocked. But, that was also the first time I had deposed an implanting doctor in one of these cases. In the years since, I have seen far too many instances of drug and device companies trying to tempt physicians into prescribing or implanting certain products.
In some cases, the physician may not even be fully trained in the potential issues of the drug or product at issue. I think this is an issue with transvaginal mesh implants. These products were heavily marketed to local physicians and regularly implanted in women. Yet, the potential problems from mesh implants can be tremendous. When problems occur, the same implanting physicians are often unable to help. I recently deposed a surgeon at a major research hospital who has tried to help one of my clients suffering from implanted mesh. Here is what that specialist said:
Clearly, you have a negligence claim against the other driver. He failed to follow the Rules of the Road. He ran a stop sign. Then, you learn more. You learn this other driver also uses illegal drugs. Illegal drug use. That’s powerful evidence. It’s powerful evidence if the judge allows it’s use at trial! That brings us to the key question: Is the other driver’s drug use admissible at trial? Can you use this evidence to help your case?
The answer is, maybe. I know, that’s not the concrete answer you wanted. Evidentiary questions rarely have absolute answers. That’s why a good lawyer with real trial experience is so important to your case. You need an experienced trial lawyer who understands the evidence rules and how to apply them. You certainly will NOT get such a lawyer from the billboards and television advertisements showing smiling attorneys begging for cases.
The nation’s leading business group is mounting a new attack on advertisements run by trial lawyers that tell consumers about the negative side effects from medical drugs and devices.
Let me start — I don’t like modern attorney advertising. Locally in northern Alabama, we have an attorney on television advertising for automobile accident injury cases who refuses to help injured people in court. Think about that — The lawyer asks for your injury case but won’t go to court when needed! Another Huntsville law firm raised billboards seeking personal injury cases but then added fine print to their website saying they really intend to sign and refer the cases to outside counsel. These lawyers serve themselves, not their clients. When it comes to drugs and medical devices, we even have lawyers running ads who are not licensed in Alabama.
I find most of these ads distasteful. Complaints about them are completely justified. Yet, the Chamber of Commerce’s approach is pure hypocrisy. While attacking television advertisements from lawyers, the Chamber has done nothing to reduce deceptive drug company advertisements. The Chamber is protecting the drug companies who rush deadly and dangerous drugs to market for huge profits. As one attorney noted:
Consumer health and safety should be the NUMBER ONE GOAL of drug research. Yet, it’s not. The primary goal seems to be greed. Immediate greed for quick and massive profit. For some drug companies that means — conceal bad studies revealing drug dangers, give the FDA just enough positive information to get the drug to market, and then sell as much as possible until the dangers come to light. Because of this, many patients are needlessly injured each year by dangerous and defective drugs that should have never been sold. Often, it’s too late for the families harmed.
Below are just a few recent examples of how drug companies view real research and the documents that explore the safety of their products:
- Transvaginal Mesh— My office represents numerous women in Huntsville and throughout northern Alabama who suffered injury from mesh products by manufacturers Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon, Coloplast, and American Medical Systems. These companies marketed their mesh products through a loophole in our law that allows certain dangerous medical devices to be sold prior to proper testing. Basically, the process is turned upside down and sales come before safety testing. Thousands of women suffered serious, and often disabling, injuries after being implanted with these dangerous and defective products. We have worked closely with attorneys in other states. The dedication of the many excellent attorneys representing injured victims of these defective products is the only reason the truth about the dangers is now coming to light. Yet, some manufacturers continue to avoid producing the complete information which the public deserves. On February 4, 2014, the Court hearing the claims against Ethicon, entered an Order saying the following:
Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions allow generic drug manufacturers to escape justice for the personal injuries and deaths they cause. They can sell dangerous products, earn huge profits and avoid responsibility for harm. That is completely unjust. No company should be able to market dangerous products with no accountability for injuries. Yet, our law now provides generic drug manufacturers this special protection.
Our law has become completely arbitrary. It closes the doors of justice to some injured consumers but not others. What do I mean? A generic drug is the same as its brand name equivalent. Yet, a patient injured by a defective brand name drug has access to the courts while a patient injured by the generic version does not. That’s arbitrary.
An editorial in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) questions this unfairness. The author, a doctor with Harvard Medical School, states the following:
I recently spoke at a seminar where we had a great discussion about ongoing medical device and pharmaceutical litigation. None of these companies paid for product attention. None of these companies paid for sponsorships. We were not promoting their products. Rather, we were discussing the injury, pain and death they needlessly cause.
Drug marketing is everywhere! You see drug and device ads on television. You see drug and device ads throughout newspapers and magazines. I have concerns about these direct-to-consumer ads for products that really require medical expertise. Yet, these visible ads are not the worst problem. What about the secret payments to physicians and medical groups in return for pushing selected products on unsuspecting patients? These same advertising drug companies provide millions upon millions of dollars to various physicians and medical groups. This includes payments directly to physicians. It also includes trips to fun places. I deposed a surgeon in one of my medical device cases who testified the device manufacturer regularly flew him to Las Vegas. Surprise! The medical device company put its “lab” near the casinos. The huge infusion of cash to select physicians who are supposed to be unbiased in their assessment and research raises serious questions. Would you like to know whether or not your doctor is receiving money from the pill company to push its product?
According to the Birmingham Business Journal, we now learn drug companies paid Alabama doctors $4.6 Million in 2009-2010. A recently released document shows that a single local physician, an internist in Decatur, even received over $200,000.00 in payments from GlaxoSmithKline, alone. Why do you think the drug company is paying a single local physician so much? For reference, that’s the same company that made billions marketing Avandia before the public became aware of its terrible dangers. The same company that apparently hid negative test results concerning Avandia. The same company that may have paid one member of the FDA advisory panel. Do you see a pattern of secret money to promote risky and dangerous products? I don’t mean to single out the local doctor just for pocketing $200,000 from drug maker GlaxoSmithKline. The same Decatur physician also received significant money from another pharmaceutical giant as well.