WASHINGTON — Utah House Majority Leader David Clark, R-Santa Clara, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday on the importance of protecting state government's authority from federal intervention in the ongoing debate on the legal liability of drug manufacturers.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., held a hearing examining a proposal on whether patients hurt by defective drugs and medical devices would no longer have the ability to seek compensation for their injuries

"Patients who are injured by approved drugs and devices deserve compensation to help them deal with their permanent disabilities, their inability to work and their costly medical procedures," Waxman said. "But the only way patients can obtain compensation is to bring a lawsuit under state law."

There is a proposal for "pre-emption" of state liability with the idea that the Food and Drug Administration's regulation of drugs and medical devices would not allow injured patients from seeking compensation under state law.

Clark spoke on behalf of the National Conference of State Legislatures, where he serves as the standing committee chair. Clark said he wants to see Congress pass a bill that would prohibit federal pre-emption of state laws.

"NCSL is troubled by the growing trend in Congress, the federal agencies and now the United States Supreme Court to pass legislation, promulgate rules and render decisions that have a substantial, detrimental impact on states because of their intrusively preemptive nature," Clark said.

Clark said states solve problems differently than the federal government and when Congress, federal agencies or the Supreme Court override states' policy decisions "the results are significant to states.

"Every state has well developed bodies of product liability and consumer protection laws that may even date back prior to the establishment of FDA as an agency," Clark said, citing some examples of Utah's code.

"Over the last 55 years, the Utah Legislature has refined our product liability statutes and our state courts have addressed issues of product liability, further refining our state common law," Clark said. "As a result, there is a robust body of product liability laws in our state. If these laws are federally pre-empted, more than a half century of discussion and debate on what laws best meet the needs of Utah's citizens and businesses will be totally lost."

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