Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ounce of prevention

Let us return to an earlier topic here: the inability of the U.S. medical industry to make enough vaccine for America's needs. This interview in Investor's Business Daily (registration required) offers some reasons why a former capacity no longer exists. Paul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Pennsylvania medical school, has written about the shutdown of U.S. vaccine makers after some bad polio vaccine was shipped by Cutter Laboratories in 1955 and a flood of lawsuits were filed in the 1970s and 1980s over a whooping cough vaccine. Offit says:
We can get vaccines, but [not] from pharmaceutical companies because it's not profitable for them. So let's make a deal. We protect them from unreasonable litigation in exchange for ... more of the products we need.

Now, IDB is no friend of plaintiffs' lawyers. It misses no opportunity to blame lawsuits for economic ills. But I think this physician, Offit, needs to be listened to. You might check out his new book, The Cutter Incident.

One serious critic of Offit on this topic also happens to be a lawyer who defends corporations in product-liability cases. He's Wade Rankin, and also worth reading.

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