Ripping Off the Rights of Children:
P.R.Newswire, 4/17/2003 12:44

Drug Companies are Enlisting the Help of Heavy Hitters to Protect Themselves
from Liability-Senators Frist and Gregg Look Like Minions of High
Profit-Vaccine Industry

Senator Frist's Former Health Advisor Dave Larson Along with Former Senator
Dale Bumpers are Expected to Lobby on the Behalf of Drug Companies Adamant
About Leaving Thousands of Mercury-Poisoned Children out of the Vaccine
Injury Compensation Program

WASHINGTON, April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Sources say that Merck, Wyeth, and
Glaxo-Smith-Kline will be paying former Frist Health Advisor Dave Larson and
former Senator Dale Bumpers to lobby on their behalf when vaccine
legislation comes back for a markup session in two weeks. The markup was
originally scheduled for last Wednesday, but an article in The New York
Times said that nervous lobbyists from Merck and Wyeth suddenly requested
the meeting be postponed. Sources say the representatives were not in
agreement with the legislation language and miscellaneous excuses were used
by Senators Frist and Gregg to explain why the meeting was cancelled.

Many believe enlisting the help of Larson and Bumpers is an obvious conflict
of interest. Dale Bumpers' wife, Betty Bumpers, just shared the microphone
with Frist and Gregg at their press conference last week about their new
vaccine bill. Now, while being paid by the drug companies, Dale Bumpers
along with Dave Larson will likely reiterate Frist's selling points for
leaving thousands of vaccine-injured children out of the National Vaccine
Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), a "no-fault" program established in
1988 to deliver quick and non-adversarial compensation for lifetime care.

A key selling point Frist continues to use is that parents of mercury-
poisoned children have filed "frivolous lawsuits." "Trying to get care for
my mercury-poisoned child is anything but frivolous," says Lori McIlwain,
part of The Right to Fight Mercury Damage Campaign and The Autism
Autoimmunity Project. "Families have real medical needs and real education
and therapy costs. Plus, it shouldn't be up to Senator Frist. Let the very
able U.S. courts decide if the lawsuits are frivolous."

Claims of vaccine makers leaving the market for fear of liability is a
popular, yet groundless selling point used by Frist to instill fear into the
American public and political colleagues. "An HHS study in 1995 and a GAO
study in 2002 both examined why manufacturers have left the market in the
1990s, and neither mentioned liability concerns as a factor in those
decisions," says Laura Bono, mother of a vaccine-injured child that
currently does not meet the statute due to his age. "Contrary to what
Senator Frist has implied, mergers decreased the number of suppliers in
recent years but at the same time, those companies were allotted greater
production and research capacity."

Parents say they want open hearings in Congress to discuss the following:
Numerous problems with the NVICP; Equal justice and protection under the law
for all vaccine-injured regardless of age; Ways to prevent hard-working
Americans from having to pay the tab for the product mistakes of wealthy
drug companies.

Parents are frustrated that corrupt politics are playing such a large role
in their children's fate. Many believe Frist has large financial ties to
pharmaceutical companies and doesn't care at all about the future of
thousands of sick children. Should the bill move to the Senate floor without
family- friendly amendments, several advocacy groups say they will place a
large media buy in Tennessee and New Hampshire which will include all major
newspapers, adult contemporary and talk radio stations, and any other medium
that targets voters and families.

For more information about the autism-mercury connection, visit,, and
Laura Bono, Autism Autoimmunity Project,
(919) 403-9443
Lyn Redwood, Safe Minds
(404) 932-1786 SOURCE Autism Autoimmunity Project