The Madison County Record Jul. 11, 2013, 8:47am

One by one, every kind of commercial enterprise is finding itself liable, retroactively, for alleged injuries -- or potential injuries -- dreamed up by head-hunting plaintiffs attorneys and their cash-craving clients. In the process, litigation itself is proving hazardous to our health, and to the health of free enterprise.

Take Avandia, please! (with apologies to the late comedian Henny Youngman.)

Avandia is a prescription drug for diabetics. Like most drugs, it has possible adverse side effects and should be used as recommended. Its effectiveness is maximized by a physician’s thorough understanding of its capabilities along with intimate knowledge of the patient’s medical history.

A physician recommending Avandia should ensure that the patient understands the associated risks, but the patient -- the one ultimately deciding whether or not to take the drug -- has the responsibility to make a truly informed decision.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration decided to relax its restrictions on Avandia and keep it on the market. It had been the top-selling diabetes drug until a researcher claimed that it increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes, whereupon the FDA restricted its use and prescriptions declined precipitously.

Since that charge was made, GlaxoSmithKline has settled more than 40,000 Avandia lawsuits (the latest just filed in St. Clair County), its patent on Avandia has expired, and another manufacturer has secured the right to sell a generic version of the drug.

Another result is that a drug company has spent millions defending a beneficial product while tens of thousands of diabetics have suffered or died for fear of taking it.

Before it’s too late, we should ask ourselves: Do we really want to be a nation of victims, a nation of petulant children? That fate is unavoidable if we continue to shirk responsibility for our own actions.

Life is full of risks. Not all can be avoided. Things go wrong sometimes and nobody knows why. Some people accept that and move on; others never stop looking for someone to blame.


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