Friday, August 24, 2012

What's Rotten in Denmark: SLAPP Having Its Day in Europe?

For this news item from  Denmark see:

The second link takes you to a scientific study in the New England Journal by Anders Perner and colleagues, funded by the Danish Research Council, comparing the use of an intravenous fluid containing hydroxyethyl starch with a different fluid for support of patients in intensive care with severe infections (sepsis). The study found that the chances of death or kidney failure were somewhat greater in the group getting the starch.

The first link takes you to a news article indicating that one of the manufacturers of the starch fluid, the German company Fresenius Kabi, is now threatening to sue Dr. Perner for monetary damages for lost sales unless he retracts the paper and issues a new report correcting what the company calls erroneous and incorrect information.

In earlier posts, most recently:
--I have called attention to SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) as a device periodically resorted to by the pharmaceutical industry. SLAPPs typically are employed when one party has deep pockets and can easily afford to pay high legal fees to bring a suit, even when in reality the suit has almost no chance of success in court. The aggressor party reasons that the other side of the suit (or threatened suit) will cave in and cease to say bad things about the deep-pockets party, or whatever their bothersome behavior has been, out of fear of going bankrupt paying legal fees to defend against the suit. The overall goal is less to get back at the actual respondent to the suit or threatened suit, and more to have a chilling effect on anyone thinking about taking future actions unfriendly to the deep-pockets corporation.

In this case the SLAPP is apparently threatened rather than actual--for some reason the news article says that the American lawyers of the drug firm sent the threatening letter to the scientist, raising the question of whether the firm's Danish or German lawyers were not intimidating enough. The Danish scientific and medical communities have fortunately responded forcefully, backing Dr. Perner and promising to support his legal case, and denouncing the company's tactics. Only with such a response can the playing field be somewhat leveled when a SLAPP is threatened.

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