Homeland Security Bill Includes Drug Company Perks


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The recently signed Homeland Security Act (H.R. 5005) includes last–minute provisions that protect drug companies but have little relationship to security.

Benefits for Thimerosal Manufacturers

The Act requires those injured by thimerosal to file claims through the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) before they may pursue civil litigation. Thimerosal is a mercury–containing vaccine preservative manufactured by Eli Lilly and other drug companies. Various researchers have linked its use to childhood autism and nerve damage.

The VICP makes no finding of fault, and caps damages in the case of death. Thimerosal victims may only sue the drug manufacturer if they have gone through the entire VICP process and received no award or rejected the award. Also, H.R. 5005 may wipe out some thimerosal cases that are now pending in the state courts.

Injuries from Smallpox Vaccinations

Another controversial Homeland Security Act provision limits the liability of manufacturers and health care providers for injuries caused by the smallpox vaccine. At the same time, it decreases the protections of those injured by any side–effects of smallpox vaccination. These individuals will no longer be able to bring lawsuits in state courts. They must instead proceed against the federal government, in federal court, through the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Drug Provisions Were Not Debated

Rep. Henry Waxman (D–CA) and other Democrats are concerned that legislators had little chance to debate the drug company provisions, which were buried within the 475–page Homeland Security Act. Congress may again address the issue of drug manufacturer liability in 2003.

For the full text of the Homeland Security Act, see the Thomas Legislative web site (click on Bill Number; type in H.R. 5005; choose the enrolled version passed by House and Senate). The drug provisions are contained in Sections 304, 1714—1717.