hundred dollar bills with pills

Both brand name drug companies and generic drug manufacturers have earned the distrust of the American public. In just the last week we have learned about another lawsuit filed against some of the leading generic drug manufacturers for collusion and price fixing. We have also read that one of the world’s biggest brand name companies, Novartis, “could settle for $1B as part of federal kickback lawsuit” (FiercePharma, May 16, 2019). How can you trust the pharmaceutical industry when key companies are accused of such egregious behavior?

The Generic Drug Scandal(s)

There have been so many generic drug company missteps we have lost count. We continue to learn about contaminated blood pressure medicines as well as fraud (Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom). 

To refresh your memory, generic drug companies have had to recall tens of millions of blood pressure pills (irbesartan, losartan and valsartan) because of nitrosamine contamination. This week Bloomerg reports that two drug companies in India that were supposed to make valsartan replacements are themselves in trouble with the FDA:

“Heart-Drug Suppliers for Millions Faulted Over Data, Bugs, Dirt,” (May 16, 2019)

Although Cadila Healthcare Ltd and Alkem Laboratories Ltd were recently granted FDA approval to make generic valsartan, they have violated good manufacturing practices in the past. According to Bloomberg’s Anna Edney:

“Workers ignored testing data showing product flaws; destroyed records indicating that drugs were failing key quality measures; and didn’t properly clean equipment, FDA inspection reports stated. Inside one factory, inspectors said they saw swarms of insects.”

Cadila got a green light from the FDA on March 16 to produce valsartan plus hydrochlorothiazide. The Food and Drug Administration is on the hot seat to solve the drug shortage problem. But Bloomberg notes that:

“Inspectors found in April and May that equipment at Cadila’s facility wasn’t cleaned appropriately to prevent contamination and that workers ignored signs of impurities.”

Collusion and Price Fixing in the “Sandbox”

You might think that concerns about contamination would be enough to explain why many Americans no longer trust the pharmaceutical industry. Just wait. The REALLY BIG generic drug story this week has to do with a lawsuit brought by over 40 states attorneys general. They are suing 20 generic drug makers for fixing prices. At last count there are 300 drugs involved in this litigation including antibiotics, arthritis medications, HIV treatments, blood thinners, cancer drugs and contraceptives.

According to the lawsuit, American consumers have lost billions of dollars because they were overcharged. It is alleged that executives met face-to-face at industry conferences and social events to divide up the market and determine prices.

In an interview on the show PBS News Hour (May 15, 2019) the attorney general of Connecticut, William Tong, responds to a question about how much money has been lost:

“Billions of dollars.

“We think this is potentially the largest private sector cartel in history. And what we’re seeing is pervasive, widespread, industry-wide price-fixing and dividing up of market share.”

Key company officials have been accused of getting together to divvy up the marketplace and set prices over golf, during “girls night out” cocktail parties, lunches, dinners and other industry gatherings.

They were, according to the lawsuit, reminded to “play nice in the sandbox.” Instead of competing head-to-head, companies were apparently encouraged to cooperate. That is not the way the generic drug industry is supposed to work. The generic drug companies deny wrongdoing and state that they will vigorously defend themselves against the charges.

It’s Not Just Generic Drugs on the Hot Seat

Another big story this week is about a big brand name drug company. An industry monitoring organization, FiercePharma, reports on one of the largest brand name drug companies in the world. In its May 16, 2019 online newsletter the headline reads:

“Novartis could settle for $1B as part of federal kickback lawsuit: report”

Here’s the summary:

“The most eye-popping claims in the lawsuit read like corporate corruption out of the world of fiction, with Novartis allegedly treating doctors to $10,000 dinners at Nobu, a chic New York seafood restaurant, and wild nights out at Hooters. In one instance, whistleblowers said the company held a sham promotional speaker event on a fishing boat.”

The judge in the case:

“…said those incidents were just a few of some 79,000 events admissible as trial evidence after federal prosecutors alleged a ‘companywide scheme’ to boost scripts that defrauded the U.S. government of millions in Medicare and Medicaid billing over the span of nearly a decade.”

Do You Trust the Pharmaceutical Industry?

We wouldn’t blame you if you are becoming cynical about FDA oversight of the generic drug industry abroad. We wouldn’t blame you if you no longer trust the pharmaceutical industry to police itself. We wouldn’t blame you if you no longer trust the pharmaceutical industry to price medicines fairly.

If you read Katherine Eban’s book, Bottle of Lies, you will learn why so many Americans no longer trust the pharmaceutical industry. That’s Period…Full Stop!

Share your own story in the comment section below.

Deloris no longer trusts the pharmaceutical industry, especially the generic drug industry:

“Not only do consumers have to worry about the ineffectiveness of generic drugs, we also have to worry about unknown, undocumented additives and contaminants and the effects they may have on our overall health. If anyone takes more than one generic, tracking any harmful ingredients is impossible. Generic drug manufacturers show no concern and cannot be sued, and pharmaceutical distributors are only looking for the cheapest products. The FDA does nothing about this.”

William T. has also lost trust in the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA:

“In my opinion the FDA is failing its owners. That happens to be us, the taxpayers of the USA! They fail to ensure safe drugs, they fail to ban pharmaceutical companies that make pills which are not equivalent to the original. They continue to maintain that all the drugs they approve are safe.

“Congress should demand better, safer medicines. Otherwise it is allowing people to be harmed by the FDA. Are there not enough good Congressional members left to protect us?

Share your thoughts below:

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  1. Ed
    Burlington vt
    Reply

    WHY has Sydney wolf “worstpill” not been informative on generic pill fraud?

  2. Cathie
    Ca
    Reply

    I had some very bad experiences with generic drugs. I took a generic of Diflucan (made by Teva) 3 different times and kept getting huge blood blisters and it wasn’t till I went to a Dermatologist and we went over the dates I had taken the drug that we discovered I must be allergic to a filler. I had never had a reaction with the original.

    What is shocking is that we have such corrupt people in our government we are allowing drug companies to charge crazy prices (examples: Epi pen, cancer drugs that have been on the market for 10 plus years).

    Keeping people sick, or making them sick is weakening our society.

  3. Mac B
    Texas
    Reply

    It is all about the “BOTTOM LINE.” Too much consolidation. Original owners / founders replaced by book keepers who used to be in the back room with visors and bands on their sleeves. As a retired employee (management) with an old line company, I saw in happening.

  4. Marla
    Reply

    I don’t trust Big Pharma and am doing what I can do avoid pharmaceuticals (for me and my family members). Period, end of story!

  5. John
    Croydon, PA
    Reply

    If our federal laws are ineffective at policing prescription drugs, then it is likely that there are problems with supplements too, which are less regulated. I just stopped one of my supplements because it comes from India. I have no way of knowing whether it was produced by a rogue company.

  6. Jane J
    IN
    Reply

    I second the motion to all the above! Have had my share of experiences with contaminated prescription drugs!! Why do we have an FDA if they are not doing their job to protect us? Why do pharmacies continue to buy drugs from companies with contaminated drugs? Have wasted a fair amount of money on contaminated drugs! Why the huge recalls?

  7. Mary M
    SC
    Reply

    I find it hard to believe that the only drugs involved are three blood pressure meds. I think we will find out that contamination is widespread throughout the industry.

  8. julie
    richmond, va
    Reply

    I recently read an article addressing the problems in the pharmaceutical industry which proposes a simple solution; the FDA should shift its emphasis from inspecting the places where the pills are made to the quality of the pills being sold. This will reassure consumers that the medication they are taking is of a consistent standard and quality, no matter where it is made and no matter how it is transported.

  9. xx
    xx
    Reply

    I think it’s all about money and a corupt gov leads to corupt companies. It’s about time they were sued and the gov agencies responsible for this state of affairs should be liable too.
    My two cents

  10. Helen
    GA
    Reply

    No, I do not trust the drug companies. I stay away from prescriptions and any bad side effects of OTC meds. They are in the business of making as much money as possible, they do not care about the people that are prescribed the drugs. By the time they decide along with the gov’t, to do something, to much damage has already occurred…. So SAD!

  11. Cindy
    northern California
    Reply

    There may still be a few in the industries mentioned in this article who claim to believe in God. Here is a reminder of how he feels about this subject:

    (Proverbs 11:1) NWT . . .A cheating pair of scales is something detestable to Jehovah, but a complete stone-weight is a pleasure to him.

    Proverbs 20:23 New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
    The Lord hates weights that weigh things heavier or lighter than they really are.
        Scales that are not honest don’t please him.

  12. Tom M
    MI
    Reply

    I really don’t care about prices or price fixing. What about the efficacy and safety of all these drugs? I do not trust Big Pharma to make drugs that are helpful and not harmful. I believe that the many side effects are telling us that these drugs are being rejected by our bodies because they are akin to poisons. Do our bodies reject foods and supplements like vitamins and minerals? Maybe in a few rare cases. I no longer trust the testing and protocols used to ensure these drugs are safe. My goal for the rest of my life (now 69) is to avoid ever having to take Big Pharma drugs, even mild pain killers like Advil, Aleve and Tylenol. Look at the Bayer/Monsanto scandal over Roundup…are we to blindly trust these companies since it seem profits are at a premium over lives?

  13. Patricia
    New Jersey
    Reply

    Many women who have shifting hormone problems as they age spend an inordinate amount of time getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. A drug called Mybertriq was developed. It had fewer side effects than the two drugs that preceded it. I loved it and I slept through the night. However I had to stop taking it as the cost for the drug was over $146 a month. That is simply outrageous. So here I am getting up several times to use the bathroom because I cannot afford this drug. That amount of money is our grocery bill for two weeks. Drug companies force you to make choices. Lose sleep or provide food for your family?

  14. Marianne
    GA
    Reply

    I have read here in the past that some generics are made in the same facilities where the Brand name is made. If that is accurate, why should we believe that the Brand Name is safe? I take a lot of mediation–all of it generic. Maybe that’s why I need to take a lot of medication!

  15. Michael
    N, Central Nebraska
    Reply

    The book “Bottle of Lies” by Katherine Eban is a sad tale of corruption and collusion in the generic drug industry. Ms. Eban was interviewed at length by Terry Gross on the radio program “Fresh Air” just yesterday, May 16th. Fresh Air can be accessed as a podcast.

    Who is more to blame, the manufacturers or the FDA.? We need bigger prisons for these crooks.

  16. Jane
    Reply

    Please tell me nobody is surprised by this! There is absolutely no reason for ANY faith in this totally for profit “industry” . For me, it makes trusting the people trained in the virtually company owned medical schools difficult too. There HAS to be a lot of subtle (and maybe not so subtle) brainwashing.

  17. Bob
    NY
    Reply

    Rather than just fining the pharmaceutical companies, executives need to go to prison. They don’t care about the fines, they make so much money anyway most of the time it’s a drop in the bucket. Start prosecuting the top executives and they will think twice.

  18. John
    Roanoke, VA
    Reply

    Profits over people. The American way. Pride and greed have long overtaken, not just the pharmaceutical industry, but all of the professions. When standards and profits are valued over people – and assuredly they now are in our culture – the outcome is the present state of affairs.

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