GE Using UK Libel Laws to Shield Omniscan from Criticism, Doctor Claims

General Electric has been accused of trying to stifle criticism of its <"">Omniscan gadolinium contrast dye by a Danish radiologist who warned it was associated with nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) in 2007. According to an article in The Guardian, Henrik Thomsen claims a subsidiary of General Electric has sued him under the United Kingdom’s tough – some would say draconian – libel laws to keep him quiet about Omniscan’s alleged health risks.

Gadolinium contrast dyes are used to enhance images during MRI, and sometimes MRA, procedures. NSF is a rare, debilitating and often fatal disease that appears to only affect people with severe kidney disease who have been exposed to these products. In the U.S., Omniscan and all other gadolinium dyes currently in use have been required to bear a black box warning regarding the potential for NSF since 2007, and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is currently considering even tougher labeling requirements for the drugs.

Thomsen began speaking out about NSF and its association with gadolinium dyes in 2007, after about 30 patients at Copenhagen University Hospital developed the condition. According to The Guardian, the UK libel suit alleges that Thomsen claimed GE Healthcare marketed Omniscan despite knowing about its adverse side-effects; suppressed the information and concealed it from radiologists; and exposed patients who were administered Omniscan to the danger of NSF. According to The Guardian, GE Healthcare says the alleged defamation occurred during a 15-minute presentation Thomas made to fellow radiologists in 2007 at Oxford University, and in statements made in an article published in Thomsen’s name in the journal Imaging Management.

GE Healthcare has already spent £380,000, or $614,000 USD, to sue Thomsen in the UK. According to The Guardian, if the drug giant wins, Thomsen will have to pay its costs. The case is not expected to reach court for another 18 months.

According to The Guardian, Thomsen’s lawyers are using a concept known as “qualified privilege” to defend him. As a doctor, Thomsen claims he had a duty to report his experience with Omniscan, and his audience had a legitimate interest in receiving it. For its part, GE Healthcare asserts that qualified privilege doesn’t protect Thomsen because he acted “maliciously”.

For now, because of the libel claim against him, The Guardian says Thomsen has stopped lecturing in the UK. He also claims patients in England are being put at serious risk because he and other scientists are prevented from sharing their knowledge as a result of the way the libel courts in the country operate.

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