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Behind the Vaccine Court: Zero Accountability

Immunity Editor's Note: This article from The Wall Street Journal, "Vaccine Makers Enjoy Immunity," is a good primer on the Vaccine Court, which has turned into such a roadblock to vaccine safety and to justice for families affected by vaccine-induced autism. Here is a quote that is the heart of the problem:

"Vaccines are products that are completely different from any others. We need to encourage companies to develop vaccines in order to protect the public health," said Rep. Henry Waxman. No, vaccines are NOT completely different -- they are pharmaceutical products approved by the FDA and they need to be safe as well as effective. When people start talking about something being "completely different," it reminds us of the notion that "9/11 changed everything" and similar claims. That kind of talk is cover for the worst excesses -- for the ends justifying the means -- and we see the consequences every day now. -- Dan Olmsted.

By AVERY JOHNSON

One of the little-noticed reasons that Wyeth was attractive enough to command a $68 billion price for rival Pfizer Inc.'s planned takeover sits in a building catty-corner from the White House across Pennsylvania Avenue. That is where a special "vaccines court" hears cases brought by parents who claim their children have been harmed by routine vaccinations.

The court -- and the law that established it more than two decades ago -- buffers Wyeth and other makers of childhood-disease vaccines from much of the litigation risk that dogs traditional pill manufacturers and is an important reason why the vaccine business has been transformed from a risky, low-profit venture in the 1970s to one of the pharmaceutical industry's most attractive product lines today.

(Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal HERE. Of course, the WSJ requires a paid subscription. The excerpt above gives you the jist of the article. Vaccines are not subject to product liability lawsuits like "drugs" because they have been placed in a parallel, protected universe where every shot is safe for every human on the planet.  More on that big, fat lie later tonight and tomorrow. Stay tuned.  Kim)

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Jim Witte

(posted under assumption of Fair Use Provision of US Copyright Law.)

"(WSJ 2/23/09
One of the little-noticed reasons that Wyeth was attractive enough to command a $68 billion price for rival Pfizer Inc.'s planned takeover sits in a building catty-corner from the White House across Pennsylvania Avenue. That is where a special "vaccines court" hears cases brought by parents who claim their children have been harmed by routine vaccinations.

The court -- and the law that established it more than two decades ago -- buffers Wyeth and other makers of childhood-disease vaccines from much of the litigation risk that dogs traditional pill manufacturers and is an important reason why the vaccine business has been transformed from a risky, low-profit venture in the 1970s to one of the pharmaceutical industry's most attractive product lines today.

The legal shield, known as the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, was put into place in 1986 to encourage the development of vaccines, a mainstay of the nation's public-health policy. A spate of lawsuits against vaccine makers in the 1970s and 1980s had caused dozens of companies to get out of the low-profit business, creating a public-health scare.

The strategy worked and the public-health implications have been sizable. Vaccines have driven huge reductions -- and in the case of smallpox, for instance, complete eradications -- of major childhood diseases. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who developed a vaccine for rotavirus with Merck & Co., says, "If that Act didn't happen, I think American children would have been at risk."

Vaccines have also become big business. They are poised to generate $21.5 billion in annual sales for their makers by 2012, according to France's Sanofi-Aventis SA, a leading producer of inoculations.

At a time when pharmaceutical companies are being battered by generic competition to their best-selling drugs, vaccines offer an appealing alternative because they are biologic products that can't yet be copied. Another big draw is the partial protection from liability risk offered by the vaccines court, officially known as the Office of Special Masters at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Such immunity makes a product like Wyeth's Prevnar enormously attractive. Designed to protect children against seven strains of pneumoccocal disease, Prevnar had sales of $2.7 billion last year that are projected to grow to $5.5 billion in 2015, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

Pfizer spokesman Ray Kerins acknowledges that Wyeth's strength in vaccines was an important factor behind Pfizer's interest in the company, but he adds that the deal made sense for a number of other reasons.

Vaccines' transformation into a lucrative business has some observers questioning whether the shield law is still appropriate. Critics say the vaccine court's ruling this month that routine childhood immunizations aren't linked to autism underscored the limited recourse families have in claiming injury from vaccines.

"When you've got a monopoly and can dictate price in a way that you couldn't before, I'm not sure you need the liability protection," said Lars Noah, a specialist in medical technology at the University of Florida's law school who has written about vaccines.

Many plaintiffs' lawyers would prefer to take their lawsuits directly to civil court because the vaccine court limits compensation in death cases to $250,000. They also think that juries could give them a more sympathetic hearing.

Kevin Conway, an attorney at Boston law firm Conway, Homer & Chin-Caplan PC, which specializes in vaccine cases and brought one of the recent autism suits, says the lack of liability for the pharmaceutical industry compromises safety.

"The dire straits of the 1980s do not exist anymore and it calls into question the need for the program, since the ability to sue the pharmaceutical companies would provide a different level of oversight," Mr. Conway says.

Even if they had won their cases, the families of autistic children wouldn't have been paid by the companies that make the vaccines, as is common in other pharmaceutical-liability cases. Instead, the government would have footed the bill, using the funds from a tax levied on inoculations.

The pharmaceutical industry, for its part, argues that the vaccine shield is still necessary. "The Act remains an important and relevant protection against baseless litigation that may dissuade parents from having their kids receive important vaccines," says Wyeth's outside counsel for vaccine litigation, Daniel Thomasch, of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLC.

Mark Feinberg, vice president for medical affairs and policy at Merck's vaccine division, says companies need the government's protection to shoulder the risk of pricey clinical trials. "Today, there are a number of important infectious diseases that don't have vaccines," he says. "The program does provide clarity for manufacturers as they go forward with new development."

To be sure, the vaccine court has been friendly to some plaintiffs. About $970 million has been awarded in its two decades of existence, and 12,890 cases have been filed. The court has relaxed standards about which witnesses and evidence can be admitted, because its judges -- called special masters -- are better equipped to navigate dubious science than a jury.

And injured parties can still sue vaccine makers in civil court if they reject the vaccine court's decision, if the court dismisses the claim or if the claim is stalled in the court for more than 240 days. Rep. Henry Waxman, who introduced the 1986 bill, hails those limits to the liability shield. "Vaccines are products that are completely different from any others. We need to encourage companies to develop vaccines in order to protect the public health," he says. "The manufacturers have long fought for total immunity from lawsuits, but I have fought back hard to ensure that the law preserves access to courts in cases of true negligence or misconduct."

But vaccine suits, when they do get to civil court, face restrictions there on punitive damages and failure-to-warn arguments.

Barbara Loe Fisher, the co-founder of a nonprofit parents' group called the National Vaccine Information Center, says the inclusion of high-priced new vaccines, like Merck's Gardasil, which aren't vital to preventing pandemics, runs counter to the spirit of the original law, which she worked on in the 1980s."

Ray Gallup


Per.........

"Maybe we have found common ground with Paully Proffit. The 'vaccine court' should go and these biostitutes can fend for the themselves in civil courts. This dissolution would also divorce goverment and PHARMA somewhat which is also necessary. Wonder if that would effect Paully's royalty deal?????????"


Posted by: MADDERdad

Excellent idea getting rid of the US Vaccine Court. This was created in 1986 with that terrible law that passed in Washington DC.

Read Marge Grant's book, "A Stolen Life" to read all about what went on from Marge Grant's perspective. Worth a read by all parents whose kids were vaccine damaged.

The book is at:
http://www.dptshot.com/


MADDERdad

Maybe we have found common ground with Paully Proffit. The 'vaccine court' should go and these biostitutes can fend for the themselves in civil courts. This dissolution would also divorce goverment and PHARMA somewhat which is also necessary. Wonder if that would effect Paully's royalty deal?????????

Ray Gallup


Per Henry Waxman, I had a run-in with him back in 2000. He gets funding from the vaccine companies and is a pharmaceutical company kool aid drinker (a Rev. Jim Jones advocate in a sense).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Jones

During the Congressional hearings, Waxman also suggested that Congressman Burton, because of his membership on the Honorary Board of the Autism Autoimmunity Project, a nonprofit organization, had engaged in a conflict of interest. Project President Ray Gallup responded to Waxman as follows:

April 14, 2000

Congressman Henry Waxman
2204 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Waxman:

I'm writing you in reference to your mentioning our organization, the Autism Autoimmunity Project and Congressman Dan Burton, Dr. Vijendra Singh and Dr. Andrew Wakefield during the Congressional Autism hearings on April 6th that my wife, my autistic son, my daughter and I attended. I understand this was initiated after Congressman Burton asked Dr. Paul Offit what his connection to Merck was. I wanted to enlighten you that Merck makes hundreds of millions a year on selling products like the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and hepatitis B vaccines. They are in the business of making a profit. Also, Merck has not done any independent, long-term safety studies on their vaccines.

Our organization, the Autism Autoimmunity Project is a non-profit organization involved in research for autism and my wife, Helen, two other parents, Denise and Doug Totter and I are trustees. All members-at-large are non-salaried and are parents/grandparents of children with acquired autism, including Congressman Dan Burton. We are interested in autoimmune research that will help our children and feel strongly that Dr. Wakefield and Dr. Singh will provide important answers.

We started this charity in October 1998 when we saw that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would not fund Dr. Singh's research and that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) criticized Dr. Wakefield's important findings. As Dr. Singh mentioned, he applied three times to the NIH for funding and did not receive one dime. This is a perfect example of the NIH not caring about our children and not caring about doing something constructive to stem the epidemic of autism. The funding we provided for Dr. Wakefield, I'm sorry to say was a paltry $9,000.00 and I understand that the total support for Dr. Wakefield was $560,000.00.

So you see our support for Dr. Wakefield was not nearly enough nor was the support for Dr. Singh, that accounted for another $28,000.00. I wonder what proportion of Dr. Offit's research and educational turnover was Merck derived? Only then can the likely substance of bias or undue influence can be determined. To date, the work that Dr. Singh and Dr. Wakefield has done has not been funded by our organization but the funding we have provided will go to future research by them.

Your comparison of our organization to Merck is way out of line and unwarranted. I would hope that you will correct your viewpoint about our organization, our members and the research we are funding. If you don't feel that your viewpoint should be corrected, then you show that you don't care enough about our children and the autism community at large. I hope that you will support NIH funding for the type of work Dr. Singh and Dr. Wakefield are doing and motivate our government health officials to become more supportive rather than adversarial. The epidemic of autism in the U.S. and overseas is directly the result of an immune insult. We need to cut the ties between the NIH, CDC, and FDA and the pharmaceutical companies. They should represent the people of our country and not the pharmaceutical lobbyists.

I hope you will not play politics as usual and instead support Congressman Burton in his efforts on behalf of our children.

Sincerely,

Raymond Gallup, President
Autism Autoimmunity Project
http://www.gti.net/truegrit/

cc: Congressman Dan Burton Congressman John Tierney
Congressman Stephen Horn Congressman Chris Smith
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen Congressman Lee Terry
Congresswoman Constance A. Morella Congresswoman Judy Biggert
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Congressman Doug Ose
Congressman John M. McHugh Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton Hage
Congressman Steven LaTourette Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich
Congressman Jim Turner


http://www.whale.to/v/waxman1.html

article in response to WSJ story

Excerpt from newsinferno.com regarding the WSJ's story:

Because vaccine sales have increased and represent a business expected to garner over $21 billion in profits over the next couple of years, critics feel the program is no longer needed, said the Journal. As the Journal pointed out, the program prompted the creation of a special vaccines court - known as the Office of Special Masters at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims - in 1986 and limited damages to only $250,000 in the worst of all scenarios: Death cases. That's little recompense for patients and families of patients who believe vaccines have caused severe, life-long, and crippling harm.

Vaccine Maker Immunity Questioned
Date Published: Monday, February 23rd, 2009
http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/4803

MadDad

I was shocked, absolutely shocked, to open my WSJ yesterday and see an article on vaccines that quoted Dr Offit.

Does this guy actually have a job other than spokesmodel anymore?

Actually I was surprised that the Journal (who is definitely not sympathetic to those who question vaccines, see their article and editorial after the recent vaccine court decisions) acknowledged that Offal was "chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who developed a vaccine for rotavirus with Merck & Co" which at least notes that he is more than just a kindly old doc with no dog in the hunt.

As an aside, I had someone accuse me of stopping vaccines for my son because of Jenny. I guess if people do whatever celebrities tell them to in regards to vaccines they had their kid vaxed because of Amanda Peet? Or maybe it was Rosalyn Carter.

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