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Congrss Set to Bail Out Big Pharma In Secret

"Protecting the health and informed consent rights of children since 1982."

Contact: Barbara Loe Fisher

for immediate release
November 15, 2005


Washington, D.C. – A behind-the-scenes plan is reportedly taking shape in Congress to attach language to an unspecified conference report giving drug companies blanket immunity from liability for vaccine injuries and deaths.

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a watchdog consumer advocacy group critical of provisions in “The Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005" (S. 1873) sponsored by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and a similar bill in the House (H.R. 3970), calls the reported plan “an end-run by Pharma’s friends in Congress to take away the civil rights of the American people.”

In the past few weeks, public criticism about the proposed bail-out of drug companies has been mounting as Americans are being told that a pandemic bird flu is coming and drug companies are asking Congress to bar citizen access to the civil justice system when they are harmed by vaccines. Because the bird flu virus has not mutated into a form that is transmissable from human to human, questions have been raised as to whether irrational fear about bird flu is being generated in an attempt to stampede Congress into passing liability protections the pharmaceutical industry has been seeking for 40 years.

Pointing out that there are twice as many drug companies marketing vaccines in the U.S. today as there were in 1982 when NVIC was founded, NVIC President Barbara Loe Fisher said, “It is a big lie that drug companies have been driven out of business by lawsuits in the past two decades. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 protected drug companies and doctors from almost all lawsuits. There are only a handful of vaccine injury lawsuits pending in civil courts but Pharma is on the brink of conning Congress into destroying Americans' Seventh Amendment Constitutional right to seek redress in a civil court in front of a jury of their peers. Apparently drug companies only want profits and not accountability when Americans die or are injured by experimental and poorly tested biodefense and pandemic flu vaccines they can be forced to take whenever the Secretary of Health and Human Services declares a public health emergency and state officials follow suit.”

In a November 15th letter to Senator Burr's staff director, U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness, NVIC President Barbara Loe Fisher describes S. 1873 as “arguably unconstitutional” because it (1) lacks transparency into the research, development, licensure and post-licensure surveillance of vaccines and drugs used in public health emergencies; (2) lacks accountability for either manufacturers of these products or government health officials who mandate their use without informed consent; and (3) lacks justice for those who will inevitably die or suffer chronic illnesses after being compelled to take these products.

The proposed law will also create a new agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that will secretly develop experimental drugs and vaccines to be used by civilian and military populations whenever the Secretary declares “a potential or actual” public health emergency. The agency may deny Freedom of Information Act requests by citizens and is not subject to review of its actions by the judicial branch of government.

In 1982, there were four drug companies marketing vaccines in the U.S.: Wyeth, Lederle, Merck and Connaught. Today there are eight: Wyeth, Merck, Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline, MedImmune, Chiron, Bioport, and VaxGen. There are ten vaccine injury lawsuits currently pending in U.S. civil courts, with the majority involving a highly reactive whole cell version of DPT vaccine no longer distributed in the U.S.

For more information and a complete text of Barbara Loe Fisher’s 11 page letter to Senator Burr’s subcommittee staff, go to www.nvic.org.

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