FDA Flunks Mylan’s India Facilities, Finds cGMP Violations
When we open our medicine cabinet, we take for granted that the drugs we find there are safe and properly labeled. Many physicians privately worry, however, about the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs.
About 85% of the prescription drugs sold in the United States are manufactured offshore. Many of those offshore drugs are made by generic companies, foreign contract manufacturing companies and sometimes, offshore facilities owned by the so-called “big pharma” manufacturers themselves. Wherever manufactured, drugs distributed in the United States must meet certain current good manufacturing practices or cGMP standards.
Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began ramping up inspections of offshore manufacturing facilities and the results are shocking. Although cGMP violations have been found worldwide, experts are particularly worried about drugs made in China and India.
Earlier this month the FDA cited three facilities in Bangalore, India that manufacture drugs for Mylan. Headquartered in the U.K., Mylan is the second largest generic and specialty pharmaceutical company in the world. With approximately 30,000 employees worldwide and revenues of $7.72 billion (USD), Mylan certainly qualifies as big pharma.
The FDA says it inspected three of Mylan’s Indian plants between August of 2014 and February of this year. It found “significant” cGMP violations at all three facilities.
Worse, the FDA says that in all three instances Mylan’s response to the three inspections lacked “sufficient corrective actions.”
cGMP standards are in place throughout the manufacturing process to insure the potency and quality of the finished pharmaceuticals. The FDA wants to insure that there are no contaminants in the finished product as well as insuring the finished product is neither stronger nor weaker than advertised.
As a result of the inspections, the FDA concluded a likelihood that the finished drugs from all three plants were adulterated. Those findings are certainly bad news for consumers. It’s also bad for physicians as well. It’s hard for doctors to get dosages correct or monitor for side effects if a drug has inconsistent potency or the presence of contaminants.
In the case of Mylan’s Bangalore, India facilities, the violations were numerous and included:
gloves and sterile gowns for use in aseptic environments had holes and tears
personal sanitation violations
clean room violations
discolored injection vials
lots with failed assays or contaminants
At least one of the facilities had similar violations dating back to a 2013 inspection.
Overall, the FDA noted, “These items found at three different sites, together with other deficiencies found by our investigators, raise questions about the ability of your current corporate quality system to achieve overall compliance with CGMP. Furthermore, several violations are recurrent and long-standing.”
The FDA declared that continued noncompliance could result in drugs from these facilities being blocked from importation and distribution within the United States.
Mylan has had previous problems with U.S. regulators. In 2000 Mylan paid a $147 million fine to settle charges that the company raised the price of generic lorazepam by 2,6000% and generic clorazepate by 3,200%. The FTC had charged that the company raised the price of lorazepam, the generic equivalent of the brand name antianxiety medication Ativan, from $7 per bottle to $190. Although Mylan agreed to the payment of the fine, it denied any wrongdoing.
Only the FDA can punish drug companies for cGMP violations but if there is proof of an adulterated product entering the commerce stream, the federal False Claims Act can come into play. That law allows private individuals to file a lawsuit against a wrongdoer and receive a percentage of whatever is recovered by the government. Last year the Justice Department paid $635 million in whistleblower awards under the False Claims Act.
Whistleblowers in cGMP cases have received tens of millions of dollars. Dinesh Thakur, a former Ranbaxy executive, received $48 million for information about adulterated generic drugs.
To qualify for a whistleblower award, one must possess inside, “original source” information about a cGMP violation resulting in an adulterated drug or under / over potency medication being approved for sale by Medicaid, Medicare or Tricare. (Most drugs are approved.)
While we believe that contaminated drugs are relatively rare, industry sources tell us that potency issues are rampant. That means the drugs in your medicine cabinet may have little or no active ingredients.