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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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President Bush, Wyeth v. Levine & Ethex's Morphine Sulfate: Consumers Beware!

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As President Bush does his best to rewrite federal rules aimed at pre-empting product liability litigation (50 rules that would govern product-liability laws from motorcycle brakes to pain medicine, like Ethex’s Morphine Sulfate that was recalled by the FDA twice this year), which would block product-safety lawsuits by consumers and states, a Supreme Court case is being heard, Wyeth v. Levine, that could tip the scale in favor of "big-business" (Bush) or consumer protection laws (us).

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Wyeth, the defendant and manufacturer of a drug that caused the plaintiff, musician Diana Levine, to lose her right arm, Bush will be able to manipulate the language of these federal rules, aimed at state preemption laws, to make sure they stick around long after he’s left the White House. If it the Court rules in favor of Levine, which is probable since she was already awarded $6 million from the physician whose decision of how Wyeth’s drug was to be administered (IV push instead of IV drip method) caused Levine to develop gangrene and, subsequently, left her without a right arm, it’s doubtful that Bush’s new regulations will have a lasting impact past a year or two.

On top of this, Ethex, a subsidiary of KV Pharmaceutical, has recalled its generic drug Morphine Sulfate due to oversized tablets that can pose life-threatening consequences. If Bush’s laws go into effect next month or before January 20, 2009, and someone were to fall gravely ill or even die due to ingesting the drug (which the person probably thought was either a 15 mg, 30 mg or 60 mg tablet, when in fact it could have been as much as double the labeled level of active Morphine Sulfate), what can that person do to find a proper legal remedy? They will find it all the more difficult to pursue legal recourse due to Bush’s wanton need to have his corporate buddies approve of him.

Former Bush domestic-policy adviser Jay Lefkowitz, whose been an instrumental force in these processes of taking away consumer rights, said that the president’s philosophy is, "You can’t ask companies to follow different standards." Because they’re not smart enough?!

Lefkowitz’s logic: The Bush Administration believes that corporations are too simple minded to follow both federal and state laws, particularly when it comes to consumer products or protection, therefore, consumers are now fortunate enough to have the burden of protecting themselves against drugs, like Ethex’s Morphine Sulfate, be placed on them.

Now, how could any person who’s been prescribed Ethex Morphine Sulfate know the difference between an actual 60 mg tablet (size) and one that is oversized (essentially 120 mg-sized), unless Ethex made a 120 mg tablet (which it does not) and had the latter-sized table right next to him or her. Consumers trust that the FDA will impose regulations on drug manufacturers, that physicians will follow how drugs are to be administered or prescribed, and if manufacturers and physicians fail to follow these FDA rules, a consumer can and should be able to seek the appropriate legal recourse for the distresses (physical and emotional) he or she suffered.

If only January 20, 2009 were tomorrow…