Dennis Quaid Talks Medical Errors With Congress

New England Journal of Medicine Editor Gregory Curfman noted the case of Vioxx, a drug used to treat arthritis pain. Vioxx was approved by the FDA in 1998, but people later learned it could cause heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular problems. In 2002, the Vioxx label was revised to reflect those risks and in 2004, it was pulled from the market.

Curfman today said that "preemption of common-law tort actions against drug and medical device companies is ill-advised and will result in less safe medical products for the American people."

Curfman also testified that the drugs Avandia, approved by the FDA in 1999 for treating Type 2 diabetes, and Trasylol, approved in 1993 to control bleeding during heart surgery, also show how researchers sometimes find out after the fact what's wrong with the drugs.

Avandia remains on the market — with altered warning labels — since researchers found in 2007 that it is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events.

In 2006, the FDA re-examined Trasylol after a study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested it was associated with an increase in heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and death.

Curfman said that this evening that the New England Journal of Medicine's Web site will publish a large clinical trial showing that Trasylol results in higher mortality in patients undergoing high-risk heart surgery.

"It is essential that a drug's safety continue to be carefully monitored during the post-marketing period, because we know that serious safety issues may come to light only after a drug has entered the market," Curfman said.

In the case of Heparin, Baxter made efforts to change the drug's labels after three infants at a hospital in Indianapolis died in September 2006 of the same mix-up that the Quaids experienced. But Baxter's efforts to warn hospitals and submit label changes to the FDA progressed slowly. Meanwhile, Baxter didn't recall the bottles still on the market with the old labels.

"Like many Americans, I have always believed that a big problem in this country has been frivolous lawsuits," Quaid said. "But now I know that the courts are often the only path that families have that are harmed by drug companies' negligence."

ABC News' Brian Hartman contributed to this report.

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