House Democrats Fight to Repeal Law that Protects Profits of Deadly Rx Corps

Plan gives Michigan families, communities impacted by opioid crisis a new tool to hold companies accountable
Monday, June 25, 2018

LANSING — Michigan Democrats introduced a plan today to repeal a 1995 law that protects the profits of pharmaceutical companies who knowingly manufacture or distribute harmful drugs. The state’s last-in-nation law prevents Michiganders, or the state itself, from holding pharmaceutical companies accountable when their dangerous products harm or even kill people. The Democratic plan laid out in HB 6224-6 not only repeals the backwards corporate protections, but it makes the repeal retroactive, providing Michigan families and communities with a new tool to hold wealthy drug companies accountable.  

“Forty-nine states understand that the health and safety of people should come before big pharma’s profits, but in Michigan, Republicans like Attorney General Bill Schuette rigged the rules against working families,” said state Rep. Brian K. Elder (D-Bay City). “Democrats know there is no good reason that a wealthy drug company should play by a different set of rules than the rest of us. That’s especially true when our state is facing an epidemic of drug overdoses, deaths and crime caused by addictions to opiates that often begin with prescription pain medicine.”

Michigan is the only state in the nation that provides immunity for pharmaceutical companies from legal action related to the sale or false advertisement of dangerous drugs. The 1995 legislation, co-sponsored and defended by then-state Senator Bill Schuette, was originally passed by Republican majorities under the guise of luring pharmaceutical jobs to the state. Instead, drug companies like Pfizer left Michigan and took thousands of jobs with them.[1] The Attorney General’s Office is uniquely positioned to protect consumers from dangerous corporations, yet in his role as the state’s top consumer protection advocate, Attorney General Schuette has failed to file a lawsuit on behalf of the state or ask the Legislature to undo the law he helped write.

“Not only did Michigan’s drug immunity fail to bring good-paying jobs to our state, it left Michigan families defenseless against drug companies that bring bad products to market,” state Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit) said. “The drug immunity law is a perfect example of how corporate lobbyists have rigged the rules in Lansing in favor of wealthy CEOs and against working families. That is just wrong. Families who have been torn apart by opioid addiction are scrambling for resources to help their loved ones recover, while the companies that made them sick are legally untouchable. It’s an outrage, and it’s time drug companies are held accountable for what they do, just like any other person or company.”

Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the highly-addictive Oxycontin, makes $3 billion a year on that one drug, while families and municipalities continue to shoulder the enormous financial burden the opioid crisis has placed on families, states and communities.[2] More than fifty Michigan cities and counties recently joined a national class action lawsuit against major opioid manufacturers for their alleged role in the opioid crisis. However, Michigan’s drug immunity law makes it unclear whether the manufacturers can be held accountable in Michigan.

“Around the nation, states and cities are moving forward to hold drug manufacturers accountable for the overly addictive opioids that they flooded onto the market, but here, our hands are tied by misguided legislation,” state Rep. Pam Faris (D-Clio) said. “Michigan families and communities deserve the same freedom as people anywhere else in the country to seek justice against the drug manufacturers that tore families and communities apart. Democrats will fight to end Michigan’s failed drug immunity law and to restore justice and security to the people of Michigan.”