Saturday, October 16, 2004


If you need a flu shot, and can't find one, blame the lawyers....

From the Weekly Standard:
If Kerry thinks he can solve the flu vaccine problem, he need look no further than his own running mate, trial lawyer John Edwards. Vaccines are the one area of medicine where trial lawyers are almost completely responsible for the problem. No one can plausibly point a finger at insurance companies, drug companies, or doctors. Lawyers have won the vaccine game so completely that nobody wants to play.

Two weeks ago, British regulators suspended the license of Chiron Corp., the world's second-leading flu vaccine supplier, for three months. Officials cited manufacturing problems at the factory in Liverpool, England, where Chiron makes its leading product, Fluvirin. Chiron was scheduled to supply 46 million of the 100 million doses to be administered in the United States this year. The other 54 million will come from Aventis Pasteur, a French company with headquarters in Strasbourg.

So why is it that 100 percent of our flu vaccines are now made by two companies in Europe? The answer is simple. Trial lawyers drove the American manufacturers out of the business.

In 1967 there were 26 companies making vaccines in the United States. Today there are only four that make any type of vaccine and none making flu vaccine. Wyeth was the last to fall, dropping flu shots
after 2002. For recently emerging illnesses such as Lyme disease, there is no commercial vaccine, even though one has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

All this is the result of a legal concept called "liability without fault" that emerged from the hothouse atmosphere of the law schools in the 1960s and became the law of the land. Under the old "negligence" regime, you had to prove a product manufacturer had done something wrong in order to hold it liable for damages. Under liability without fault, on the other hand, the manufacturer can be held responsible for harm from its products, whether blameworthy or not. Add to that the jackpot awards that come from pain-and-suffering and punitive damages, and you have a legal climate that no manufacturer wants to risk.

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