We got word that a couple weeks ago, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Novartis, was about to change its company profile page! Here are some of the proposed changes. (For some reason, these have now been scrapped. Can't imagine why.)
Our company slogan
We pay money to sleazy people for political favors while trying not to pay money to victims of our unsafe drugs.
We paid President’s Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, $1.2 million through February 2018 just to make sure U.S. health care policy and drug prices went our way. The whole thing was a bust but at least we tried. Meanwhile, we fought like hell to make sure that children born with developmental delays (i.e., brain-damage) never got a dime, when a generic form of our asthma drug was prescribed “off label” to their mother even though studies showed that the drug posed a serious risk to the fetus and we failed to warn of this risk. We lost, but at least we tried.
Our new tag line.
At least we tried.
We don’t think we should have any. So, for example, you may know that since 2011, consumers who take generic drugs and are injured due to an unsafe, inaccurate or outdated label have no recourse in court. But in December 2017, the California Supreme Court held us – a brand name company – legally responsible instead! We fought it, of course, even though we “falsely represented that terbutaline [the generic form of our asthma drug Brethine] was safe and effective and would not cause serious side effects in newborns, and it intended for pregnant mothers and their physicians to rely on these representations.” So then, some twins were born brain-damaged after their mother was given the drug. How’s that our problem?
The case was T.H. v. Novartis. The ruling was grounded in the FDA’s regulatory scheme, which provides that only a brand-name company (like us) – and not a generic company – has the power and authority to change a drug safety label. Leslie Brueckner of Public Justice, counsel for the plaintiffs, said, “Writing for a unanimous Court on this point, Justice Cuellar held that, because generic manufacturers are ‘required to follow the brand-name manufacturer’s label to the letter,’ a brand-name manufacturer ‘owes a duty of reasonable care in ensuring that the label includes appropriate warnings, regardless of whether the end user has been dispensed the brand-name drug or its generic bioequivalent.’” In addition, the decision “gives consumers of generic drugs the right to seek justice for their injuries. It will also protect public health and safety, by giving brand-name manufacturers a strong incentive to update their labels when new risks emerge after their drugs go generic.”
Well, we’re not taking this lying down! On February 9, 2018 – less than two months after this ruling – our friends at the Congressional Civil Justice Academy at the Koch-funded George Mason University law school came to our rescue by holding a Senate event featuring attorney Brueckner and Phil Goldberg of Shook Hardy & Bacon, which represents the drug industry in its “tort reform” lobbying practice.
Goldberg suggested, among other things, that the federal government (i.e., the FDA) should take care of all drug safety problems for the 11,000 drugs on the market. That would mean legal rights of injured drug consumers would essentially be eliminated, providing the entire pharmaceutical industry with immunity. In other words, brand and generic companies should be permitted to escape responsibility for independently fixing labels even if they know the labels are inaccurate or out-of-date, placing exclusive safety responsibility on the FDA. And then, no injured person – whether harmed by a generic or a brand-name drug label – would have any legal rights to hold a company accountable in court or obtain compensation for injuries.
Now that’s corporate responsibility we can get behind!