Supreme Court Health Care

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 yesterday that drug companies can be held liable for harm even when their products are improperly administered by a third party despite warning labels that were obvious and approved by federal regulators. The decision is a huge victory for plaintiffs lawyers, but it’s a much bigger defeat for drug innovation and public health.

via The Supreme Court Holds Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Liable for Harm in Wyeth v. Levine – WSJ.com.

The Journal got the facts right, and even the conclusions, but they miss the main point. Yes, big drug companies will likely incur great expense due to the ruling, but big drug companies are “pass through” entities. Their expenses pass through to the consumer by means of higher prices. All the Supreme Court really did was increase the cost of health care.

That doesn’t make it wrong. The issue here, as with malpractice insurance, is simply this: how much do want to change the cost of health care to compensate the victims of medical errors? Want more money for victims? Then increase health care costs. Want lower health care costs? Then reduce compensation for victims. This is a matter of choice, not of right or wrong.

Victim advocates argue for justice. But justice is never free.

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