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Why Americans Don’t Trust the Pharmaceutical Industry

Do you trust the pharmaceutical industry to price medicines fairly, provide quality generic drugs and be honest? What happened this week to undermine trust?
White pills on top of dollar bills bundle. High cost of healthcare concept

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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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I don’t know why Americans do not trust pharmaceutical companies. Not all pharmaceutical companies are doing bad things but some companies are doing good business with customers, and customers are also happy with them.

I have also filled my prescription from an online Canadian pharmacy. It is safe and reliable.
In the USA pharmaceutical companies sell prescription medication at very expensive prices. So that is the reason why people do not trust in the pharmaceticals company.

I just finished reading Bottle of Lies. I couldn’t put it down. It was shocking. I’m still trying to get my head around it. I cannot comprehend how the FDA could permit these companies to put new drugs into the system, given their uncorrected bad behavior. The example in the book is just shocking. But I think another commenter had it right – if the pharma executives don’t face prison time for what they are doing, they will likely continue it. The fact that these sartans (ARB) drugs like valsartan have been recalled recently (and it is still ongoing after a year – rolling recalls) is unacceptable.

How long does it take to test a pill? Why are recalls still happening after a year? Why were companies with such bad inspection reports allowed to sell these medications? I’m literally trying to find a generic drugmaker I can trust. They almost all seem impacted. Is there no website or place to go to find the list of most reputable Indian drug makers? It’s almost impossible to find a U.S. generic these days.

They say 80% of all generics come from India and China. Why aren’t people asking about where their drugs are made rather than just accepting them? Until more sunshine falls on this issue, people will continue to buy bad drugs. And really, this whole valsartan recall should be getting more attention. Drugs people are buying have “probable human carcinogens” in them. AND, where are the insurance companies on this? They require me to get generics from the cheapest folks out there, yet disclaim responsibility for drug quality. They simply say, “it is not recalled, and the FDA approved it.” If, as in the book “Bottle of Lies,” Cleveland Clinic’s pharmacists can start to develop a “black list” of generic drugs, why can’t the major insurance companies? Don’t they have a responsibility to do their due diligence? They are very quick to say drugs that are experimental are not covered. They are quick to say they are concerned about safety.

I’ll tell you why. Cheap generic drugs have been a financial windfall to the major insurance companies. Also, why are the major pharmacies not responsible? They should be watching the warning signs. Why don’t they develop an internal “black list” of their own? This is an outrage. Write your federal legislators.

This problem started many decades ago when the pharmaceutical industry took over the medical schools. Students were taught that a prescription for X condition was the answer to treat X, instead of looking at the CAUSE of the condition. Medical school graduates become doctors to become “pill pushers”. These doctors should try to make sick people well. Taking a pill to mask the real problem doesn’t help the patient- it just puts them on a long life of drugs. Here, take this for those side effects, and take this one for those side effects, too.
I realize that most people want to do the easiest thing to feel better, but at what cost to themselves? We all should be accepting the responsibility of doing the very best for ourselves. If that means we need to get in the kitchen and start cooking and preparing good food, then isn’t our health worth it? Cheap fast food and prepackaged frozen meals aren’t helping Americans stay healthy.
We also need to hold our Congressional representatives accountable for what is happening with the drug supply and the cost.

Pharmaceutical medicines don’t heal people; they merely mask the symptoms while the condition remains. Thanks to the Internet, I am able to look up the side effects on any medication prescribed and have discovered that all of them are dangerous. That is why my husband and I stopped taking pharmaceutical medicines more than 10 years ago. There are many so-called “home remedies” that go back to the healing remedies that allopathic physicians recommended to their patients before the medical schools became fronts for pharmaceutical companies. Medical schools ceased teaching healing methods decades ago and now only teach the pharmaceutical medicines to prescribe. I not only don’t trust the pharmaceutical industry, I don’t trust allopathic physicians.

WHY has Sydney wolf “worstpill” not been informative on generic pill fraud? EVERYONE should read “ bottle of lies “ you will never take a pill again!

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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