In May 2008, Dennis Quaid appeared before Congress, urging lawmakers to preserve patients' right to bring lawsuits against manufacturers of dangerous or defective drugs.
The main issue at the congressional hearing was whether federal regulation of prescription drugs "pre-empts" lawsuits in state courts over drug safety. The doctrine of "pre-emption" arrises from the U.S. Constitution which provides that federal law is the supreme law of the land, and therefore state laws must yield to federal laws when they conflict. Pre-emption advocates, which include the Food & Drug Adminstration (FDA) and drug manufacturers, argue that approval of a drug by the FDA should "preempt" state product liability claims, or more simply put, effectively bar injured persons from filing lawsuits against drug manufacturers. In contrast, consumer protection advocates oppose pre-emption of state claims arguing that manufacturers should be held accountable for injuries they cause and FDA approval should not absolve them of legal responsibility.
At the congressional hearing, Mr. Quaid argued against pre-emption, stating, "I believe if preemption of lawsuits is allowed to prevail, it will basically make all of us, the public, uninformed and uncompensated lab rats."
Quaid and his wife filed a lawsuit against Baxter International Inc. after their two-week old twin children almost died after receiving an overdose of the blood thinner Heparin. The children were twice given 1,000 times the recommended dose, resulting in massive bleeding. Although the children recovered, it is uncertain whether there will be any long term consequences. The Quaids argued that the product was stored in bottles with confusing labels and should have been recalled after six other infants received similar overdoses resulting in the death of three of the infants.