By Christie Hansen
‘Here’s a story about a man named Fred, whose prescribed pharma nearly left the man dead.’ This is a simple example of the protective shield provided to the pharmaceutical industry courtesy of the NY Legislature, and how our legislators are all bought and paid for courtesy of the “health” industry.
In recent years it has become increasingly apparent, the extent of abuses that have occurred around big pharma, the legal system, and the protective legislation schemes that serve to protect big pharma. This shameless abuse has left people injured, broke, dead and alone, while our elected officials and lawyers ignore the plight of the millions harmed by pharmaceutical and medical malpractice.
People are losing their legal cases due to outdated and overly dissected malpractice bills and laws in New York. Not to mention that these very laws are voted on by politicians and legislative houses who receive some of their largest campaign and lobbying contributions from the very same pharmaceutical companies who are causing need for legal recourse.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in the past three years Congress has received some of their highest political contributions in the past 20 years. Everybody has their hands in the cookie jar, making conflicts of interest their highest ever. The question is, can officials who receive such large contributions care about the patient’s healthcare legislation when re-election is right around the corner?
A law that could have helped millions of lives including the case I will cite, may have been subversively influenced by political contributions. Lavern’s Law was originally submitted in 2015 and was intended to help all victims of medical malpractice who were past their ‘statute’ of a mere 2.5 years—one of the shortest in the country. This bill was kicked around the NY Legislature for over three years as people lost everything during the relaxed reading and enacting of this bill. Changes were made, and what was originally intended to help the many, would only help the limited few while protecting those who are responsible for the damage done to the public.
In the many amendments it underwent, all medical issues were changed to only ‘cancer cases,’ and the latest amendment was signed into law—by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Governor Cuomo—on January 31, 2018. They ended the ‘new’ bill by stripping it of everything that made it applicable to the masses: limiting the ability to retroactive recourse, limiting who it applies to and eliminating the longer seven-year statute of limitations.
While Lavern’s Law was being re-evaluated in state legislature, pharmaceutical companies were hitting some of their highest lobbying numbers with two very common campaign donors, AbbVie and Pfizer; AbbVie also being a donor to Senator John Flanagan’s campaign.
At least one citizen of Flanagan’s hometown is suffering because Flanagan chose pharma over his constituents’ well-being. I am in touch with this citizen in his hometown of Northport, NY who is a probable victim of a ‘catch and kill’ case by an upstate attorney, as the bill that would have helped this person and many others, was going through the assembly.
Three years since Lavern’s Law was introduced, not only is this citizen still suffering, but he has also been robbed of his right to take legal action against big pharma, doctors and lawyers. Politicians and lawmakers like Senator Flanagan have perpetuated severe suffering and hopelessness because of the last minute rewriting of the bill in committee.
While this case was evolving in Northport and the bill was being rewritten, a lawyer told this person that, “there is enough to file a case”. Suddenly, the lawyer found he was too busy with a ‘bait and switch’ with an expert witness and ran out the victim’s statute of limitations. Coincidentally, this occurred around the same time Lavern’s Law was being obliterated into something unrecognizable.
So, I ask you, with pharmaceutical companies being the highest contributors to campaigns and lobbying efforts, can we really trust not only Flanagan but any NYS politicians? Are they signing and amending bills in our best interest when they are running for re-election so often? During re-election, the potential for campaign contributors to push their monetary ‘weight’ around is extremely likely.
In a news update on January 29, 2018 (two days before the bill was signed into law) the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA)—an obvious disruptor of the original purpose of Lavern’s Law—wrote, “GNYHA was deeply involved in discussions with Governor’s [Cuomo] counsel on amendments to minimize the significant financial impact the bill would have.” They had severe concerns with the prior bill and were obviously pleased that there a reduction of liability. Political teamwork!
If Lavern’s Law was kept as originally intended, it would have protected many injured parties. The potential to motivate doctors to more carefully consider patients’ concerns and warning signs when prescribing two medications that cause adverse reactions, and further proceeding to ignore all complaints from the patient and other medical officials.
Only after years of the FDA being aware and ignoring the crisis, last summer they acknowledged the severity and magnitude of the lives affected and the tens of thousands of families destroyed. We witnessed the resulting fallout in NY State and across the nation for many years as the opioid crisis exploded. The case I am citing with appropriate due diligence completed, demonstrates the conflicts of interest that dominate NY State politics.This case study does not directly address the opioid crisis, however you can draw your own conclusion of why it was imperative to deploy a protective shield last summer; Lavern’s Law was the NY State legislature’s effort to hold back the ‘tsunami of pharmaceutical lawsuits’ that was about to be unleashed—as harmed citizens were seeking relief against pharmaceutical, medical and legal abuses.
There is a distinct possibility that data and evidence presented in a medical malpractice suit, filed last summer and discovered by this author, was “caught and killed” within the system subsequently ‘helping’ to reshape the outcome of pending legislation to benefit the antagonists by limiting medical liability.
For more about the story of a man named Fred, feel free to contact this author at Chansen4@binghamton.edu.