March 13, 2012

How a Plaintiff’s Attorney Thinks

by: Jeff S. Gibson, Attorney
I recently had a conversation with a lawyer for a large pharmaceutical manufacturer. We were discussing the merits of a particular mass tort case. Near the end of our talk, he asked me whether I believed the pharmaceutical industry had any good intentions or purpose. I was a little shocked by his question and believe he asked me because of the heated debate that we had. I obviously gave him the impression that I was for the immediate destruction of the pharmaceutical industry, but this is not the case.
I am a trial lawyer. I make my living representing injured plaintiffs. I chose my profession because I believe in helping people. Many of the clients that I represent have had their lives permanently changed because of a defective medical device or drug. I feel a great sense of duty to help these people seek justice and receive compensation for their injuries so they can put their lives back together.
I do not believe that the pharmaceutical industry is evil. I do believe that the pharmaceutical industry, like any other industry, can sometimes allow the desire for profitability to negatively influence decision-making. When greed factors into the decision-making process, the results can be devastating as individuals or corporations may do things that they otherwise would not normally do. As a perfect example, the name “Enron” comes to mind.
The pharmaceutical industry has seen an explosion of growth in the last thirty years. You cannot turn on the television without seeing an advertisement for the latest “blockbuster” drug. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with innovation and making money on what you create. I also understand the enormous investment of time, research, and money that it takes for a drug to go to market, and know that for every successful drug there are many failures. The problem arises when a drug manufacturer allows profitability to impact its decision on how far it will go to get a drug on the market. Off-label promotion, ghostwriting of medical articles, monetary influence over academic institutions; all of these marketing strategies lose sight that the original goal of the drug– to help people.
This brings me back to the question posed by my colleague. My answer is that I don’t believe the pharmaceutical industry is evil. I do think that when a pharmaceutical company is blinded by greed, the results can be catastrophic for the people I represent, and that’s why I do what I do.

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