Thursday, January 6, 2011

'Tis a French Custom--Libel Suits?

Q: How does a smart drug company discourage a non-commercial evidence-based information source from saying true but unfavorable things about one of their products?
A: Sue them for libel.

At least if you're in France. explains how Astellas Pharma, a Japanese-based multinational, is suing the noted French periodical Prescrire for libel over the publication's discouraging review of their drug, Protopic, an anti-eczema ointment which according to an FDA warning carries a cancer risk due to its immune suppression.

Dubois and Braillon, writing in the UK's HealthWatch, explain how France has become a sort of haven for these libel suits, with French institutions often being slow to defend a scientist who's attacked in this way:

In HOOKED I described suits of this sort as a variation on what's called SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation). The basic idea behind SLAPP is that the plaintiff has very little if any chance of winning the suit; but the plan is both to impoverish the relatively impecunious defendent by running up a big legal bill to defend themselves against a deep-pockets company that has stables of lawyers on retainer, and indirectly to intimidate others from speaking out against the company for fear of similar treatment.

And here I thought that the US was the world capital for excessive litigation...

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