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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  May 20, 2019 8:00am-9:01am PDT

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05/20/19 05/20/19 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from new york, this is democracy now! >> there is widespread falsification of quality data in generic drug manufacturing plants overseas. and u.s. fda is minimizing the findings of its own investigators at those plants. for example, there was one fda investigator, peter baker, over five years he went into 86 plants in india and china and
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found fraudulent or deceptive data in 67 of those. generic drugs comprise nearly 90% of the pharmaceceutical supply in the united states. nearly 80% of the active ingredients of all drugs, brain or generic, as welell as almost all antibiotics, are made outside e the united states. how are theyey inspected? dodoes the generic version o ofa drug have the e same effect as e brand d name? what happens when it doesn't? just a few of the questions we will ask investigative report katherine eban today, author of the explosive book "bottle of lies: the inside story of the generic drug boom." all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!, democrcracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman.
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as tensions between the united states and iran continue to flare, president trump issues a threatening tweet sunday, writing, "if iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of iran. never threaten the united states again!" he did not specify what threat he was referring to. on saturday, iranian foreign minister mohammad javad zarif reiterated that iran does not war and that no country has the "illusion it could confront iran" according to state media. earlier this month, ththe u.s. deployed a carririer strtrike gp and a bomber task force to the region, and last week "the new york times" reported the pentagon reportedly drew up a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the middle east if president trump decides to take military action against iran. meanwhile, saudi arabia echoed a sentiment to recent statements
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by u.s. officials, saying they does not want war but is prepared to respond to aggression with "all strength and determination to defend itself and its interests." this follows recent attacks on several saudi oil assets. it is not clear who attacked the oil tankers. the white house announced sunday the first phase of its middle east peace plan will take place next month in bahrain and is being billed as an economic workshop to encourage financial investment in the occupied palestinian territories. the "workshop" will bring together finance ministers with business leaders from around the world. theyey will reportedly avoid addressing any political issues. palestinian officials said they were not consulted prior to the planning of the so-called workshop and dismissed any attempts to tackle peace talks in the region without addressing human rights and the illegal occupation. this is the palestinian prime minister. >> the american administration
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announced d at will bebe a woworkshop nextt month about the economic and investment situation in the region, including palestine. as the first step of the deal of the century, the cabinet ststresses anyny solution to the politicacal conflilict of plansn ending the occupation, achieving the rights of the palestinian people, expressing by establishing the independent, sovereign, viable state on the 1967 to borders and jerusalem as its capital. amy: swedish authorities on monday issued a request for the detention in absentia of wikileaks founder julian assange, who is facing rape charges in sweden and is currently serving jail time in britain for skipping bail in 2012. last week, prosecutors reopened a sexual assault investigation into assange, which was dropped in 2017 because they said the case could not proceed whihile assange was holed up at the ecuadorian embassy in london, where he lived for s seven years before being f forcefully removd byby british police last month.
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assange has dedenied the accusation and his lawyer representing him in sweden said he hasas not been n able to getd of his client to discuss the detention order. assange must reportedly serve 25 weeks of his british prison sentence before he can be released. assange now faces possible extradition to both sweden and the united states, where he is wanted for the publication of leaked documents by army whistleblower chelsea manning, which showed evidence of u.s. war crimes in iraq. in related news, wikileaks is reporting that ecuador will allow u.s. prosecutors to go through and take possessioion of assange's belongings left in their london embassy. assange reportedly has two manuscripts at this former living quarters. his lawyers have called it an illegal seizure of property. in australia, voters and pollsters were left in shock after the conservative government of prime minister scott morrison won an election that was largely favored to go to the labor opposition, which
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ran on a platform of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and taking on the challenges of climate change. scott morrison, who is pro-trump, has backed major coal mine projects and introduced anti-immigrant policies, most notably y turning away asylum-seekers to australia to send t them to migrant camps on remotete islands. in austria, a snap election has been called after the saturday resignation of vice chancellor heinz-christian strache, who was also the leader of the far-right, nationalist freedom party. he resigned after a hidden camera video was released showing him promising government contracts to a russian woman who claimed to be the niece of a powewerful russian oligarch. strache said he or his freedom party never received any money and apologized for thehe incide, blaming his actions on alcohol and his desire to o impress his female companion. auaustrian chancellor sebastian kurz dissolved his people's
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party's coalition with the freedom party following the resignation. the news comes as a blow to nationalist politicians in austria and across europe who are hoping to increasese their political power in the upcoming european parliament elections taking place later this week. tens of thousands of people took to the streets in cities across germany sunday to protest against the rise of nationalism head of the european parliament elections. it is alarming how many right-wing parties are active, not only in germany, but throughout europe. from soy must be learned it is our responsibility to go to the polls and stand against the right and demonstrate. amy: meanwhile, in france, as yellow vest demonstrators marked six months since the start of the anti-government protest movement, many also called for voters to stand against elite and corporate interests in the upcoming eu elections. >> we believed in europe.
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we believed in it completely, but we did not understand that europe is very much for the rich, meaning the first thing it did was to build a huge safety box to stash away their money. amy: the final phase of voting in india's six-week long election concluded sunday. exit polls show prime minister narendra modi's hindu nationalist bjp party on track to win or retain enough seats to secure parliament. vote counting will begin on thursday. taiwan became ththe first asian nation to lelegalize s same-sex marriage friday. tens of thousands came out in the e capital taipei to supporot the bill and broke out in celebration as lawmakers approved the historic legislation. the bill passed two years after taiwan's constitutional court ruled that the legal definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman was unconstitutional and despite a referendum last year that opposed the move. the new law will go into effect
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lgbtq activists say there remain friday. other discriminatory laws on the books, including adoption restrictions for non-heterosexual couples. back in the united states, demonstrators gathered in mobile, alabama, sunday to call out the state's newly passed law effectively banning abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. this is a a protester at sunda's event. >> making abortions illegal will not save lives. there many young women and women who are going to end up taking their own lives and taking dangerous measures do not have a child. but legalizing abortions make a safe and give women a place to make a choice with their own bodies. i don't feel like men should have a choice over a woman's body. amy: there were also protests in other parts of alabama, including in birmingham, where presidential candidate senator bernie sanders also joined the protest. reproductive rights advocates also turned out in kansas city,
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missouri, after lawmakers passed a bill friday banning abortions after around eight weeks, once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, but before many people realize they are pregnant. the bill does not include exceptions for rape or incest. republican governor mike parson says he will sign the bill into law. architects of the highly restrictive abortion bans say they welcome legal challenges in the hopes that the cases will end up at the supreme court and eventually lead to the reversal of roe v. wade. president trump may be considering memorial day pardons for american military members accused or convicted of war crimes. one of the requests is reportedly for navy seals special operations chief edward gallagher, who is facing charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing a captive teenage -- teenager by stabbing him with a knife while deployed in iraq. to see our recent interview
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about edward gallagher with new york times reporter dave phillips, go to democracynow.org. "the new york times" is also reporting that deutsche bank ignored employees' warnings about president trump's financial transactions and their recommendations to report them to the treasury department's financial crimes unit. anti-money-laundering specialists flagged suspicious activity afterer transactions related to both donald trump and jared kushner from 2016 and 2027 raised alarm.. "the new york times" report says deutsche bank's decision not to heed thohose warnings was partrf a pattttern to protect relationships withth high-value clients. deutsche bank denies the claims, as did representatives for both the trump organization and kushner's businesses. previously, "the new york times" reported deutsche bank loaned over $2 billion to trump for real estate deals over nearly two decades, even when other banks refused to do so.
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president trump sued deutsche bank last month in an effort to block them from turning over financial records to congngressional committeeses. michigan congressmember justin amash broke with his party to become the first republican lawmaker to publicly say president trump engaged in impeachable conduct in the wake of last month's mueller report. in a lengthy tweet thread saturday, amash accused attorney general william barr of deliberately misrepresenting the special counsel's report. "partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances". trump lashed out at amash on twitter, calling him a loser and writing, "never a fan of @justinamash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy." a new investigation by "the new york times" exposes the financial schemes at the root of
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the new york city taxi drive crisis. the repoport reveals t that a gp of industry leaders titificial inflateded the cost ofof taxi medallions andndrchestrated a predatatory lending g scheme, collllecting millilions of dolls in the process and putting many drivers into debilitating debt. city agencies did little to curb the system, which a harvard professor quoted in the report called "modern-day indentured servitude." while the advent of rider apps like uber and lyft contributed to a loss of income for licensed taxi drivers, the investigation finds that the taxi medallion bubble had already laid the groundwork for the current driver crisis. at least eight drivers have died by suicide since the start of 2018, with at least some of the drivers linking the decision to their crushing debt. in atlanta, billionaire investor robert smith stunned students at
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morehouse college when he announced in his commencement speech sunday he would pay off the student debt of the entire graduating class. every classe sure has the same opportunity going forward. [applause] because we are enough to take care of our own community. havee enough to ensure we all of the opportunities of the american dream. and we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds. amy: robert f smith is the founder of the investment firm these equity partners. he is the richest black man in america, according to forbes.
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one of the graduating seniors at the historically black morehouse of troyis the nephew davis, who was executed by the state of georgia in 2011, despite major doubts about evidence used to convict him of killing an off-duty police officer. ben jealous, former head of the naacp, who championed troy davis' case tweeted "congrats. junior year high school grandma died, you mourned and kept studying. senior year, uncle troy was executed despite his innocence. you went back to work wiring jets. that same year, your mom died, cancer. you graduated on time. today you are a morehouse grad, 2019, celebrate." experts have warned about the mounting student crisis for years. nationwide, 44 million people over nearly $1.5 trillion in student debt.
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the average debt for student with federal loans is $32,000. boeing acknowledged for r the first time flaws in the software of 737 max aircrafts. in a statement released saturday, the company said flight simulators that were used to train pilots were not able to mimic conditions that were present during the fatal crashes on indonesia's lion air and ethiopian airlines that together killed nearly 350 people. and in new york city, activists staged anotherer protest at the whitney museum friday, to demand the removal of warren kanders, ceo of tear gas manufacturer safariland, from the museum's board. the demonstration, which took place on the opening of the prestigious biennial exhibition, capped off nine weeks of actions by a coalition of f activist groups who called out safariland's role in suppressing
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popular movements, including in standing rock, ferguson, and palestine, as well as the teargassing of migrant families at the border. last month, 48 artists purchase a pending in the demonstration, sign on to letter to manning warns removal from whitney's board. some groups also challenged the role of cultural institutions in the gentrification of new york city. this is activist betty yu. >> my name is betty and i'm a cofounder. the reason we're here at the whitney is we are making the clear connection between war profiteers profiteers of mass displacement. namely to whitney and the highlight behind me, when they open up a lot of galleries here in the meatpacking industry moved to chinatown. we are 120 calories gentrifying chinatown now -- galleries gentrifying chinatown now. fit're being used to newcomers and gender fires against longtime residents. usedare the trojan versus to raise the real estate by you
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and then eventually will displace chinatown's tenants and residents. amy: and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and pepeace report. i'm amy goodman. we begin today's show looking at an explosive new investigation that exposes widespread unsafe condnditions in many indian and chinese factories that manufacture generic drugs sold in the united states i combinene nearly 90% of the u u.s. supplyf drugs. nearly 80% of all the active ingredients of all drugs, brand or generic, as well as all most all antibiotics, are made outside of the united states. cheaper than are brand-name drugs. but in her new book "bottle of lies: the inside story of the generic drug boom," journalist katherine eban works with two industry whistleblowers to expose how some manufacturers are cutting corners at the cost of quality and safety.
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this comes as the u.s. food and drug administration just issued its own update on the state of pharmaceutical quality that found the drug quality of factories in india and china scored below the world average. fda officials say that's because more robust inspections that -- have uncovered problems. two factories in china and india were inked to recalls ofof the commonly-prescribed blood presessure drugs losartan andd valsartatan after teststing revd the drugs werere tainted with possssible carcinogens. the report prompted the fda'a's directoror of drug evaluation ad resesearch to conclude that "t"e quality of the drug supply has never r been higher." so can generic drugs be trusted? withore, we spend the hour katherine eban to discuss this explosive book "bottle of lies." she is the author of a previous
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book on the pharmaceutical industry titled, "dangerous doses: a true story of cops, counterfeiters, and the contamination of america's drug supply." she is a contributor to fortune magazine, and was previously a staff writer for "the new york times" and "the new york observer." welcome back to democracy now! >> so nice to be here. >> this is life and death information. start off by talking about what exactly generic drugs are. >> generic drugs are a version of the brand-name drug. they are not an identical copy, but generic companies reverse engineer -- they break down the brand-name drug and figure out how to remake it. they have to use the same molecules. they have to use the same root of a administration, whether it is swallowing a pill, injecting. then they have to submit an application to the u.s. food and drug administration. the fda reviews data to see whether those drugs are
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bioequivalent. do they reach the same peak concentration of drug in the blood? and if the fda deems they do, they are approved to make the generic version. amy: and explain -- what is the breakdown of what americans take? and also, of course, the insurance industry and what it will cover, which determines what we all imbibe? >> 90% of our drug supply is generic. comeajority of those drugs from overseas. 40% alone of all of our generics are manufactured in india. if you go to a pharmacy, you will automatically be switched to a generic drug if one is available. what is interesting to me is even of the name of the manufacturer will be on thehe label, consumers will not have information about where those drugs are manufactured. amy: why? did they ever? did,m not sure they ever
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but the company's climate is proprietary. for the u.s. consumer, they're getting less information about whether drugs are made than where their serial is made or their shirt is manufacactured. that informamation is simplyly t available d you u have to be, partially, an investigative journalist to figure out where those drugs are manufactured. amy: a lot of people are shaking the heads right now going, i knew when i switched to a generic that i felt differently. now, what about those who would say, are you just working for the generic drug companies and promoting these way more expensive brand drugs? this is an issue for brand companies and generic alike because 80% of the ingredients and all our drugs, whether brand or generic are being manufactured overseas. so this is really a quality issue that is affecting brand and generic companies.
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i should hasten to add, i am an independent investigative journalist. i have received absolutely no money from any manufacturing concerns, which is a statement that is disclosed in my book. amy: also explain what active ingredients means. again, nearly 80% of all active ingredients in all drugs, brand or generic, are made outside the u.s. almost all antibiotics are made outside the u.s. >> active ingredient is the key ingredient in the drug. it is the sort of synthesized molecule that makes the drug effective. it is the central element of the drug that has the effect on the person. so if active ingredient, what is common and active ingredient will be manufactured in china, , anill be shipped to india indian manufacturer rolled make ththe finished dose, then itit l arririve at our pharmacy. that is invisible to the consumer.
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amy: why did you decide to write "bottle of lies" started in 2008, so a decade ago. i was contacted by an npr radio host joe great who runs a show called "the people's pharmacy." he was concerned the guest patients were writing in and calling in saying they had symptoms, in some cases devastating symptoms, after being switched to certain generics. and those complaints greatly concerned joe great and because there was a lot of commonality between them. a lot of patients were concerned about similar or same drug. they were complaining about time release drugs. slightly more complex. some of them were suicidal after being switched to antidepressants. some of them were having seizures after taking epilepsy drugs. he had been sending these andlaints to the fda
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basically the response he got was everything was fine. he told me and i have my notes from that call, you wanted someone with investigative firepower to look into this. amy: i was just talking to a "new york times" reporter last night who sister had epilepsy and had not suffered from seizures for years, but then had to switch to the generic. it is all the insurance would cover. and she immediately started to seize. but she was not allowed to go back on the brand-name drug. the insurance company would not cover it. he was describing to me about his sister that even when she would to the pharmacy and had her doctor's prescription or the brand-name, the pharmacy would not fill it and would not allow her to actually pay for it. >> there is a real disconnect here.
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if you decide that you don't want to eat factory farmed meat, you as a consumer can go into a supermarket and buy organic, grass fed meat from a small family farm. but if you decide that you don't want to buy a foreign manufacturer generic or you want to have a brand instead of a generic, consumer really has no control or power in this equation, which is one of the reasons why this has been sort of so concealed behind layers of insurance companies and middlemen. amy: if the fda says a generic medicine is the same as a brand name medicine in dosage, safety, and quality. >> on paper that is true. on paper that is the fda's standard. and they will point to that standard. but what i set out to find out, what is actually going on in
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these distant manufacturing plants where our drugs are made? amy: we're going to break and come back to this discussion. you are a clear investigative journalist on thehe trail. you worked witith whistleblowers that are astounding as they go abroad to try to find out how -- what kind of conditions these drugs are made in that are the supply for a large sector of the united states. katherine eban is author of "bottle of lies." the book has just come out. we will be back with her in a minute. ♪ [music break]
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amy: "things you can do." this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. we are spending the hour with investigative journalist katherine eban, author of the explosive new book "bottle of lies: the inside story of the generic drug boom," which has just been published.
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take us on a journey with peter baker. tell us who he is. >> peter baker was a 32-year-old fda investigator. they were called consumer safety officers. in 2012, the fda looked around and asked would any of its investigators like to relocate overseas to the poorly staffed and a remote offices in india or china to investitigate the drug plants making our generic drugs. peter baker is a motorcycle guy whoattooed tough was up for an adventure, but yet another reason that he wanted to volunteer, which was that by reputation, it indian manufacturers were market leaders in aseptic manufacturing, which is a very demanding any fracturing of making sterile drugs. so he volunteerered to relocate and wound up in new delhi.
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amy: explain what he found. >> he started investigating these plants. he had a different way of investigating that a lot of fda investigators. he skipped the guided tours and opening slideshows and went right to the quality control labs. amy: weight. are these tours announced in advance? >> that is one of the big problems. the fdaa announcnces investigats overseas in advance, sometimes giving two-month advance notice to plants they arere coming. amy: so what can they do in that amount of time? >> they can do a lot. as one of us to get her said, give them a week in and they can put up a building. basically, the accusation is these plans are staging their inspections. one of the remarkable findings in my book is that they literally had data fabrication teams that come in advance of these inspections, fabricate documents, shred documents, then quality data, invent standard
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operating procedures all in advance of the fda's arrival. amy: so he goes into a factory. >> yes. one of the first plants wawanted to was accompanied -- was a sterile manufacturing plant where the quality controls are incredibly strict down to employees having to move very deliberately and slowly so as not to disturb the airflow in the plant. it is that strict and regulated. it was his second day of the inspection. he was in a hallway and he saw an employee at the other end of this long brightly lit hallway with a clear garbage bag. the man was walking in a furtive manner. as soon as the employee saw peter baker and his colleague, a microbiologist, he turned around and started walking the other way again. , "stop"obiologist yield and the man broke into a run. he tossed the garbage bag under a stairwell.
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peter baker open the bag and found 75 torrent batch records which indicated insulin, the company was manufacturing, was contaminated with metallic particles. but in the least, have been released to patientss. peter baker's only responsible for u.s. medications, but he followed the trail of these documents. he went to this area of the plant which had not been disclosed to the fda and found the plant was manufacturing a sterile injectable cardiac drug on the same equipment that had created the metallic particles. so he basically exposed deep frfraud in this plant. amy: and so what happens then? i kept talking about the number of americans who take these drugs, but these drugs go out to the world. >> absolutely. as a separate part of my
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investigation, which is also in the book, the plant make differing levels of quality for different markets. basically, they're manufacturing standards can be whatever they can get away with. in other words, if they're sending to other parts of the world, they lower their quality, they lower their quality ingredients, they skip manufacturing steps. amy: so whatat happens when youu find this contamination, when an event -- inspector finds this contamination? >> in this case, because peter baker discovered this, the plant was hit with a massive set of aservations in a form called 483. they were put on import alert, which means their drugs were restricted from coming into the u.s. market. and so in that instance, the inspection system worked as it should. ranbaxy?you talk about
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>> ranbaxy was india's largest drug company. the largest maker of generic drugs and the fastest-growing generic drug maker in the u.s. in 2005, a young information architect named dinesh thakur took a job at ranbaxy, so he moved his family. amy: to india. >> to india. at a certain moment, his boss, who it also come from the brand from a sector in england, got concerned about the quality of the data at ranbaxy and had some evidence that there was fraudulent data in some of the companies hiv drugs. him as some of which was to investigate all of the country's regulatory filings around the world.
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and get to the bottom of whether there was actually data that existed for all of the claims that the company had made to regulators. go back to o peter baker and what happened to him. so he exposes this contamination at a major plant in india that is making hard drugs, among others. -- part drugs, among others. amy: in the course of five years, he inspected it is six plants in india and china and fofound some aspect of data frad or deception at 67 of those plants. really almost 4/5's of the plants he inspected. amy: repeat that. >> he found some evidence of data fraud or deception and almost 4/5 of the plants he inspected overseas in india and china. it with a completely
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different inspection method. instead of looking at the records that the plant was giving him, he went into the manufacturing plant's computer systems and started looking at deleted audit trails. and he tracked the metadata in the computer systems and realized that in many of these plants, they were conducting what are called pretests. they were doing an initial offline screen of the drugs to see what the quality was, and then potentially making alterations to the tests so when they retested the drugs in the official system of the plantnt, they would pass quality tests. amy: what happened to peter baker? >> he left the agency in march. based on the experiences he had in india, he was followed, he was threatened. in one instance he was poisoned
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with tainted water at a plant. some of the investigators that he worked with were spied on. a hotel room was bugged. based on the sort of aggregate experience, he was actually diagnosed with posttraumatic stress. amy: and the perks that inspectors get? what you describe is hardly a perk, toys and water, but what about how they are treated and how important are thehese companies to the country's india and china? >> one of the huge problems, as we discussed, is the inspections by the fda are announced two months in advance. remarkably, the fda even turns to these plants to arrange local ground to arrange hotel transportation, and so what happens is the inspectors arrive , they're picked up at the airport in a luxury car, they're taken to a hotel where the rooms are magically upgraded and they
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never see a bill. our trips to the taj mahal, shopping trips, massages, golf outings. a system that, as one of my sources called it, regulatory tourism. and the problem is, when the fda says our drug supply has never been safer, they are discounting the fact that the findings of the plants are in the system of preannounced inspections. amy: going back to ranbaxy, the largest drug company in india. explain what happened to it. and also talk about lipitor. >> dinesh thakur, who became a whistleblower, began -- doing amy: who worked at bristol squib in the u.s. and was recruited to go to india. >> that's right. once he started this research project, which was to investigate the company's
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heldwide revelatory filings, discovered more than 40 products in over 200 countries -- excuse me, more than 200 products in over 40 countries were filed with data that did not exist, falsified data in which the company was literally taking the offd drug and running tests the brand drug and submitting it as its own data. i mean, wild fabrications tossed up and go wait, they would use the brand drug but in fact they would put the results to the generic. >> this kind of fraudulent data is what they were using to get approval from the u.s. fda. so dinesh thakur, once this got exposed, his boss went into a board meeting and presented this to a subcommittee of the board of directors. and the question that he got back i is, could report be burid and could the laptop that the
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report was created on be destroyed? so the company chose to conceal this. resignedy, his boss and he was forced out of the company. he decided to approach regulators with the information that he had, and ultimately, he became a whistleblower for the fda. amamy: what happened to the drug company raranbaxy? >> not only did they continue manufacturing and selling drugs for more than eight years from dinesh thakur's first approach, the fda, in the middle of what was a criminal investigation of this company for fraud, greenlighted ranbaxy to manufacture the biggest generic drug in u.s. history, the first generic version of lipitor. amy: explain what lipitor is used for. >> it is a cholesterol reducing
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drug, which millions and millions of americans take. so it is called a certain -- s artin. it is the biggest selling drug of all time. was givenfter ranbaxy the greenlight to manufacture this, they made about $600 million in six months. mimillions of their doses of lipitor had to be recalled because they were infused with glass fragments. amy: and thahat is just what we know. they happened to find this. they were under such scrutiny by the fda, that they ended up disclosing the glass fragments to the fda, yeah. amy: what can an individual do? what do you do if you're taking the generic form of lipitor and you feel sick? you feel different from when you took lipitor? >> there is so little disclosure
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to consumers. one thing that every consumer can do is they have a maintenance drug and they feel it is working -- amy: explaine what you mean by minister of. >> say they have a drug that they take day in and day out, and many a mac and stew. lets say they dispense a drug that makes them feel good, seems to be effective, has minimal side effects. amy: like for thyroid or heart or cholesterol. >> what they need to do is look at the manufacturer on the label, ok? they feel pretty good. we're all getting switched from generic to generic to generic every time we go to a pharmacy, but want you know there is a manufacturer that is working for you, you need to inform your pharmacy that is the drug you want to continue taking. the other thing consumers should do, which i do when i'm dispensed a drug and there's a manufacturer name, i go to google a and put in fda warning
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letter in the name of that manunufacturerer in order r to e what have the fda findings been about that drug. and about that manufacturer. amy: so you have to do the research yourself. would you take a geneneric drug? also, i mean how it compares to these brand drugs and how they are made, the same places? >> i do take generic drugs. we all do. because i know the history of a lot of these manufacturers, there are cocompanies who drugs- whose drugs i won't take and those who i will take. amy: when we come back, we will be talking about how these drugs are dumped on africa and i want to talk about the significance of this. we're talking to katherine eban, investigative journalist. her book is just out, and explosive book called "bottle of lies: the inside story of the generic drug boom."
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back in a minute. ♪ [music break]
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amy: this is democracy now!, i'm amy goodman. we're spending the hour with investigative journalist katherine eban, author of "bottle of lies: the inside story of the generic drug boom." it has just been published. i want to turn to the indian scientist yusuf hamied, chairman of the drug manufacturer cipla, who shook the conscience of the global health community byby offering to produce generic aids medication at a tiny fraction of the cost. this is dr. hamied speaking severaral years ago. >> you must understand that today in the worldld therere are about 40 millionon hiv-positive. we must also undnderstandd that 8000 plus s are dying every d dy becacause of hiv and related illnesses. jusust whatis not
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cipla can do, i it is a much wir problem. belveve that the effort requiuired is a team efft for multinatational companies, e government, , governments s of varirious countries. and it has to be a team effort. any code that is dr. yusuf hamied, indian scientist. we're spending the hour with journalist katherine eban, author of "bottle of lies." ,alk about yusuf hamied, cipla and what he did. >> company correct myself, lipitor is a statin, not a sartin. is one of theed great individuals of the 21st century. he looked around, saw this massive aids epidemic, and he
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saw brand companies protecting their drugs through a minefield of patents and decided something had to be done. so what he did was he announced, working with a group of activists, that he wasas prepard to manufacture aids drugs for one dollar a day, which was such a germanic price cut t that that set in motion -- dramatic price cut that that set in motion a series of events that led to important program called pepfar under george w. bush. had a bigclinton impact on the events that led to it because the clinton foundation helped working with indian manufacturers to reduce the price further to $.38 a day. he sort of aggregated the buying power of african government and u.s. taxpayers and sort of through this groundbreaking
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coalition, was able to get u.s. taxpayers to buy and balk aids drugs for africa as a way to tackle the aids epidemic. amy: what was the response of the global pharmaceutical community? >> at first the global pharmaceutical community was actually dead that against this. -- dead set against this. they wanted to protect their patents. the outcry was so enormous that ultimately, they waived their patents so that india manufactures could make these aids cocktails at a very low price. amy: i want to go to a tweet you posted about an executive from the indian-based company ranbaxy. the largest pharmaceutical company in india -- it was. you wrote -- "more telling was a shocking disregard for human life, from some company executives. when discussing the poor quality of the company's aids drugs for africa, on a conference call, a ranbaxy medical director said, 'who cares? it's just blacks dying'."
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>> it is a very disturbing ststatement. this was said out loud on a conference call of ranbaxy executives in about 2004. it reflected a larger problem in the generic drug industry, which is a lot of these companies have what is called dual track or multitiered production, which is they make their better drugs for more regulated markets, like the u.s. and the eu, and they will make worse quality drugs for developing markets were markets which is call roh, rest of world. so those are developing markets where they have made a calculation that becausese regulation is so poor, thehey're not going to get caught. amy: when someone travels, and other example is when somomeone
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travels overseas. they say, you can't believe how cheap backing get drugs him at very same drugs we get in the u.s. but that is not true. >> they are worse quality. i shake my head. even when i was reporting my book and i traveled to india and i have friends say, can you bring me back some antibiotics? i said, do you understand what i am reporting? why would i do that to you? amy: so you tweeted about your smoking gun around ranbaxy host of talk about the documents you found. folks the smoking gun was this powerpoint presentation which was shown to a subcommittee of the board of directors. it is spelled out in detail that ranbaxy had fabricated data, completely invented data for more than 200 products in more than 40 countries in an effort to just support business needs. in other words, they needed approvals and they made up data.
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inside the company, this document or presentation came to r, thewn as the sa self-assessment report. it shaped the behavior of a number of the company's top executives in an effort to suppreress this document. amy: again, say what ranbaxy made and what happened to it. >> ranbaxy was manufacturing a huge number of generic drugs for the u.s. market. they were manufacturing generic drugs all over the world. ultimately, this document, the disclosures around this document and prosecution by the u.s. government, not to mention dinesh thakur's her wrote efforts, brought down the company. amy: why aren't drugs, the active ingredients, generics, the brand drugs from antibiotics -- why aren't they made in the u.s. for u.s. citizens and
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noncitizens? >> this has been>> sort of a long exodus of manufacturing from the u.s. market. it really started with antibiotics. one of the issues was environmental regulations and companies were wanting to -- very stringent or more stringent environmental regulations in the u.s. there is a lot of waste production and manufacturing of ,ntibiotics and drugs generally so they shifted manufacturing india.s to china and and a lot of the manufacturing of other drugs followed. in fact, the brand name comp is also ended up shifting manufacturing overseas. they bought up manufacturing plants and found almost overnight, they could cut some of their costs by about 80%0%, e cost of labor, the cost of ingredients. so that was one of the r reasons
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behind it. amy: could the government produce these drugs? >> obsolete. elizabeth warren, in fact, has an interesting proposal to get the u.s. government to manufacture essential generic drugs. look at one way. this is a national security issue. we need to manufacture our own medicine. india andwe pissed off they said, sorry, no more antibiotics? amy: some of the people you spoke to said they avoid taking prescription drugs. >> well, they were more specific than that. in fact, this is a number of fda investigators who, based on the things they witnessed in these plants overseas, basically have stopped taking generics manufactured overseas. amy: where do they get them then? >> they try not to get sick. they are very particular about which companies they take drugs from.
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and it is based on their o own knowledge. a macarthur list of records -- amy: are their lists of records? where can you go online to see which companies am i going to get drugs from? and then if you can go more specifically, and even if i'm going to get a drug from a company, i don't want it made? at this plant or that plant is there any way to find this out? >> i have been talking to people about trying to put together forward facing data for consumers. i don't have any announcements to make right now on that front, but my hope is there will be some forward facing data available for consumers. unfortunately, right now it is all just in one bucket over here and one bucket over there. consumers who get really interested in this can look on ththe fda's website for warning letters. amy: what has happened at the fda?
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president trump prides himself on rolling back regulations and theregulatory agenciies, fda chief among them. >> one thing that has been going on that needs further investigation is the fda has been almost systematically downgrading the findings of its own investigators in these overseas generic plants. they just put out a report saying the quality is very high and everything is fine and they have got this under control. but in fact, behind the scenes, they are downgrading from the most serious findings to less serious findings. the documentation that i was able to get shows they are making these decisions for political reasons. they are making them because drafts of warning levels -- letters sat on their desks for too long. this is something that really needs to be -- i think ininvestigated by congreress.
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amy: in the wake of your book, public health advocate and whistleblower dinesh thakur, as well as erin fox, senior director of drug information support services university utah health care, have called on congress and the fda to hold hearings on generic drug safety. do you see that happening anytime soon? >> i would like to think that it would. i hope it would. it is very hard to say what if anything is going to happen in this political environment. amy: have any lawmakers responded? and how much in the pocket are on acres in the pocket, democrat and republican, of the drug industry? >> certainly, there is a lot of lobbying. we all know that. by the pharmaceutical companies. i think lawmakers who have been on this a long time are inclined to look at the role of the fda in all of this and their claims that t the regulation isis adeq. an appetite to''s do that. amy: your been working on this book for years -- you have been
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working on this book for years and do this kind of research way beyond the research you did for this book. what shocked do most? >> some of the falsifications and fabrications that are going on in these plants. for example, they are even fabricating their own data proving the plants are sterile. there falsified and their microbiology data. they have to test the environment. they have to test the air and the water. they're fabricating that data. soso what is real and what is fake? storys there a particular that sticks in your mind that you cannot shake? >> i mean, i would have to say peter baker's investigations into the plant, which i chronicle in my book. amy: peter baker, the fda inspector. >> absolutely. from the moment he lands at t an airporort is followed by, to
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representatives, one of whom there is a man who yanks open the door of his cap, takes a hard look at him, closes it again. the investigators go to the plant. several of them fall ill because of tainted water. they learn later that even as they were at night in the hotel room talking about their inspections and their findings, the company had bugged the hotel room. that is the level of -- amy: how much support you to get from the fda? >> minimal. in fact, they pulled him on doing inspections. he is one of -- he i is one of e public picasso of fda investigations. amy: and he left just this past march under the trump fda. i want to thank you for being with us. we will do part two and posted online at democracynow.org. investigative journalist katherine e eban is the author f
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"bottle of lies: the inside story of the generic drug boom." it has just been published. her previous book "dangerous , doses: a true story of cops, counterfeiters, and the contamination of america's drug supply." that does it for our show. [captioning made possible by
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