Dianne and Joe Hargrove
Michiganders Left Behind By Levine (Continued from Part 3)
“Republicans have to be a little nervous about this.”
David Parker, an attorney from Detroit is talking about three new bills introduced in the Michigan House, and one in the Senate.
The bills repeal Michigan’s drugmaker immunity shield that limits the filing of liability lawsuits against the pharmaceutical industry.
Michiganders can thank former Gov. John Engler for the law. In 1996, the Republican-controlled legislature and Engler amended the state’s products liability law in a late night session.
Engler then left Michigan at the end of 2002 to take a job as CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, a group which lobbies on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry, among other companies.
In February 2008, a report released by the Center for Justice & Democracy in New York, found that the state’s drug immunity law has not delivered the promised economic benefit, such as attracting new industry to the state. In fact, drugmaker, Pfizer, relocated 2,700 jobs out of Michigan to states without a drug immunity law.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Diana Levine March 4, it established that drugmakers, (such as Wyeth in that case) do not have immunity from lawsuits under federal preemtion, the assumption that FDA approval provides a shield. Preemption was the basis of the Michigan law, making it the only one in the country and a glaring example of now a debunked theory.
Because of the law, hundreds, if not thousands, of Michiganders have been told they have no case of drug injury, and are barred from the day in court. And because of the law, they've never been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that their injuries were due to prescription drugs.
While many patients have simply gone away quietly to live off disability, others are actively speaking out to repeal the law.
Public comment is being heard in Lansing Michigan, the state capital, on three bills introduced to overturn the drugmaker immunity law.
Joe and Dianne Hargrove are there. Joe, 61, and his wife Dianne live in a Detroit suburb.
Years ago, Joe had a promising job with an auto industry parts supplier. He traveled the world, but had repeated bouts of vertigo and dizziness to the point where the simple tasks of everyday became difficult.
In early 2004, Joe was given Celexa, an antidepressant that works off-label to treat vertigo.
“It worked,” he says today. But it also worked on his liver. Six months later he suffered liver damage and began treatment with prednisone and the immune suppressant, Azasan.
Hargrove was given what he calls a “fairly high dose of prednisone” in early 2005, as well as a steroid. By July, he was jaunticed and hospitalized with diabetes and a blood sugar reading of almost 1,800.
“The doctor said go to the hospital immediately,” he says. “I never had that before,” he now says. “I was in the hospital for three days. They told me I’d be on insulin for the rest of my life. I said, 'could this be caused by the medication? Probably not, said the doctor'.”
But he came right back and cut the medication in half. Hargrove was on insulin for one month, then his sugar stabilized. His doctor agreed the diabetes seemed to be resolved.
“There was no warning, the same with Celexa that damaged my liver, there were no warnings,” he said. The next trip was to Detroit attorney Jeffrey Feiger. He told them they had no options.
“We were just astounded. We knew there had been some tort reform legislation but we had no idea it went this deep or this far. When two attorneys told me there is nothing we can do, I couldn’t believe it.”
“My point is you want to be given the opportunity to even have a case and that’s what drug immunity has done, absolutely barred us from the justice system. Tort reformers would argue today, “all these frivolous lawsuits”.
“You know what, the court can deal with frivolous lawsuits, they can bar them. But it’s not frivolous when you are told you are a candidate for a liver transplant, they sent me to a liver specialist. I dodged the bullet.”
“That’s my question to everybody. What would you do if it happened to you or somebody you loved. A lot of people who supported that law had loved ones hurt or killed, then they changed their tune. They regret supporting that law. I’m guardedly optimistic. We’ve been fighting this for 14 years. “
Today Joe Hargrove takes no drugs. He is being treated holistically by a doctor and is still recovering.
In 2004, Celexa received a black box warning about the potential for suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents. The SSRI has been linked to liver problems, and heart risks. Prednisone is known to increase blood sugars. #