Eurasia Review: Ralph Nader: Trump Administration Importing Dangerous Medicines And Food And Keeping Consumers In The Dark – OpEd

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Conservatives favor consumer choice. Consumer information is vital to
make that choice meaningful. Corporatists, masquerading as
conservatives, do not care about informed consumer choice. Donald Trump
is a corporatist, as are the vast majority of Republicans in his Cabinet
and in Congress. Corporatists do not even want you to know where
products are made. Today, producers and retail sellers do not have to
tell you the “country of origin” for meat and pork products. Before
2015, when Congress bowed to the dictates of the World Trade
Organization (WTO), Congress had enacted a law that required country of
origin labels on meat products.

People wanted to know whether the beef and pork sold in their local
stores was from the U.S., or Canada, Brazil, China, Mexico, or South
Africa, among other importers. But after the WTO judges in Geneva,
Switzerland decided, bizarrely, that “country of origin” labeling was an
impermissible non-tariff trade barrier, Congress meekly passed a bill
that repealed the labeling law and President Obama signed this
legislation into law.

While Donald Trump claims to reject “free trade” treaties, he has
been silent on country of origin regulations. State Cattlemen’s
Associations want laws mandating country of origin labels, believing
that consumers are more trusting of the U.S. meat industry than the meat
industries in most other countries. These associations know that the
U.S.D.A. Food Safety and Inspection Service has a much less rigorous
inspection process for imported meats. Unfortunately, the rest of the
meat industry likes to import meat, without labeling, and mix it up with
the U.S. products. Trump – a prodigious meat eater has yet to tweet in
favor of the American cattle industry, even though many people in this
part of the U.S. meat industry voted for him in 2016.

Even worse, we cannot tell where our drugs are being manufactured.
Rosemary Gibson, author of China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s
Dependence on China for Medicine thinks American patients are endangered
by imported medicines. Gibson is about to testify before Congress on
her very disturbing findings regarding importation of medicines from
China. I’ve been trying to get the attention of Donald Trump, his
Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, and the Secretary of
Agriculture, Sunny Perdue, regarding risks with importation of food and
drugs. Letters, emails, and calls have been met with silence. By not
responding, they’re telling us who they primarily support—corporate
profiteering interests. That is one reason why Trump has broken his
promise to the American people to bring down staggeringly high drug
prices.

It will be harder for the Trump administration to ignore journalist
Katherine Eban . Eban provides us with a terrifying glimpse of her new
book, Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom, in a
New YorkTimes article published on Sunday May 11, 2019. The article,
“Americans Need Generic Drugs, But Can They Trust Them?” exposes the
widespread unsafe conditions in many Indian and Chinese labs and plants
that manufacture generic drugs for the U.S. market (generics amount to
90 percent of the U.S. supply of drugs). One of her sources was an
intrepid Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspector, Peter Baker (he
has since left the agency).

Baker was a bold and honest auditor. He refused to announce lab
inspections in advance, as is FDA’s lackadaisical practice. From 2012 to
2018, Baker discovered “fraud or deceptive practices in almost
four-fifths of the drug plants he inspected” in India and China. Indian
and Chinese manufacturers engaged in data manipulation that could prove
deadly.

At one firm, the Wockhardt plant in India, Baker caught the company
knowingly releasing insulin vials containing metallic fragments from a
defective sterilizing machine into Indian and foreign markets. Eban
reports that “[Baker] learned that the company had been using the same
defective equipment to make a sterile injectable cardiac drug for the
American market.” Two months later, the FDA banned imports from that
plant.

Eban continues, shockingly: “In some instances, deceptions and other
practices have contributed to generic drugs with toxic impurities,
unapproved ingredients and dangerous particulates reaching American
patients.” This is nothing new. In 2008, at least 81 American patients
died in hospitals after being given heparin, a blood thinner that
contained a contaminated ingredient from China.

You’d think that the FDA would demand from Trump more inspectors
abroad and the U.S. Department of Agriculture would ask the White House
for more U.S.D.A. Food and Safety inspectors, along with tougher laws
and penalties on unsafe imports to transmit to Congress. After all, the
sheer scope of U.S. drug companies going to China and India to produce
drugs cheaply, so as to swell their already swollen profits, is simply
stunning.

Another chilling statistic from Eban is that “Nearly forty percent of
all our generic drugs are made in India. Eighty percent of active
ingredients for both our brand and generic drugs come from abroad, the
majority from India and China… America makes almost none of its own
antibiotics anymore” (My emphasis). The outsourcing of the production of
drugs to foreign countries presents vast challenges for health and
safety regulators.

One would think this surrender to imports, whose sole purpose is to
fatten U.S. drug companies’ profits, would be considered both a consumer
safety threat and a national security matter. Why isn’t Trump doing
anything to keep Americans safe from dangerous foreign products, as he
crows about tariffs?

Of course the FDA responds with their usual phony assurances about
its reliable inspections, putting out a statement that reads: “The
F.D.A. inspects all brand-name and generic manufacturing facilities
around the world which manufacture product for the U.S. market.”

Is that why the FDA, which has largely conducted unannounced
inspections of U.S. plants, still allows pre-announcement of the vast
majority of its foreign inspections? Eban reports, the FDA investigators
are treated as “the company’s guests and agree on an inspection date in
advance…Plant officials have served as hosts and helped to arrange
local travel.”

Messrs. Trump, Azar, and Perdue better wake up before innocent
Americans lose their lives due to corporate indentured government
officials failing to properly do their jobs. Do they want a major
disaster to land on their derelict desks?

Eurasia Review


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