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Drugs in a Pandemic

Ralph talks drugs with two experts, first Katherine Eban about how we can expect the coronavirus pandemic to affect the supply chain for every drug we import. And Jamie Love about how the government needs to keep pharmaceutical companies from gouging American taxpayers in a crisis, especially when the research and development of the drugs was done with taxpayer money. Plus, Ralph answers a question from a listener trapped in the credit economy.

Katherine Eban is an investigative journalist, a Fortune magazine contributor and Andrew Carnegie fellow. Ms. Eban wrote a book titled, Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom, which discusses the risks of drugs manufactured overseas. Ms. Eban has reported on the pharmaceutical industry for more than 10 years.

“It’s an extraordinary moment, but this is a moment in which all the other ills that people have been warning about are coalescing. This sort of thread bare regulatory system that is spread across the entire world, our complete and unacceptable dependence on these foreign countries for life saving medicine [are] looming signs of greater drug shortages to come. I fear what is around the corner.”

Katherine Eban, journalist and generic drug expert about the effect the coronavirus pandemic will have on our nation’s total drug supply


“You’ve got plants that are falsifying and manipulating quality data, that are ignoring impurity spikes in their drugs. And let me be clear this was what was happening in the best of times, when there was no crisis, so now you put the coronavirus on top of that with these overseas dependencies and no visibility into these plants. The FDA tried to reassure everybody by saying, well we have other methods for getting at the quality, like we’re going to be asking for data from those plants. And I have FDA investigators telling me that that data is not worth the paper it is printed on.”

Katherine Eban, author of “Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom”

Jamie Love is the Director of Knowledge Ecology International, an organization that engages in global public interest advocacy, including focusing on new solutions to public health and advocating for access to new drugs, vaccines and medical technologies. Mr. Love advises UN agencies, national governments, and public health NGOs.

“People have to take a hard look at the idea that they don’t have domestic capacity. I don’t think that every country needs to make every product it uses, but they have to have a sufficient amount of industrial capacity, that in cases like this, they can protect their own people.”

Jamie Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International



  1. Mark Hughes says:

    Of course we are not prepared in the least for this pandemic, nor for any others. Main reason is two-fold:

    1) we have a hyper-privatized healthcare system in which the entire nation has to rely only on the profit-obsessed capitalist class for a solution. While everyone naturally looks to their government when things like this happen, as they should in a functioning civilized society, the fact is our government in turn looks to Big Pharma and others for answers. When you have public agencies gutted in favor of the profiteers, the government is thereby rendered incapable. But no, we have to look to the capitalist class, and wait on them to run profit/loss analyses before they even decide whether or not it’s worth it to their bottom line before anything is even done.

    2) we have zero meaningful manufacturing in this country, and that’s been going on for decades. So when others ask “why can’t we make this or that drug/ventilator/whatever here”, well we really have no real means to do so on the scale needed. A lot of that is due to the aforementioned privatization itself, but when a country offshores all its critical needs to other countries, over time that deskills the working class and leads to another critical incapability to get out of crises. I just heard Reveal’s podcast this morning about California finding a stash of ventilators, but they’ve all expired. Wow.

    What I’m hearing in the news very little is what’s being done about a cure/vaccine/treatment, etc, (because, again, we’re incapable), but instead the vast majority of the time I’m hearing our various levels of government dictating to people do this and not that. Social distancing, stay-at-home executive orders, etc. In other words, our corrupt and flaccid governments are focusing all their energy and resources in passing strict executive orders and thereby putting the burden of responsibility on the people for avoiding the virus, instead of getting a cure, treatment, etc for it. And we still have hurricane season looming in our future.

    We’re doomed. But as long as the rich can yacht out to international waters and be safe, then everything’s fine.

  2. Sonne says:

    Why has Mokhiber started to report in a slower manner than before? A huge contrast to his initial distinctive reporting style years ago. The pace within his reporting segment seems steadily in a downturn. It’s fine, just more recognizable before.

    • Sean says:

      You’re making the case for a government capable of caring for the population that has been told that the government can’t do anything right. We are in the end days. Like: You believe Fauci, another believes Trump. No common facts mean no common solutions.

    • Toni Criscuolo says:

      Do you connect a lack of high tech skills to not being able to locate masks? I think people are just dumb and getting dumber. How do we solve that issue? Who would want to manufacture here with that level of ignorance?

  3. Don Harris says:

    “The time for serious civic reforms is now!”

    That is a great title from your recent article. But what is in the article is not what is needed now.

    The current economic uncertainty threatens the progress that has been made in participation in our political process by small donors.

    What we need NOW is Emergency Political Contribution Vouchers.

    Each eligible voter (registered or not) gets 500 dollars worth of political contribution vouchers to use for the 2020 election as many citizens will not have the ability or confidence to give up any money they have for political contributions.

    They can send up to 200 dollars total (in vouchers and/or cash) to any candidate running in the 2020 general election. The candidate could only accept the vouchers by limiting the amount of contributions for their campaign from any one donor to 200 dollars total (in vouchers and cash).

    But this will not be passed by Congress now when we need it. Unless drastic action is taken by you.

    You need to run for president NOW as described in my comment form last week and threaten to stay in if Congress does not pass an Emergency Political Contribution Voucher Act by June as well as the threat to pressure Biden to run a small donor only campaign in the general election.

    If that doesn’t scare the big money politicians into action now then it will inspire much anger that could be expressed by a vote for Ralph in November 2020 (probably from both sides) instead of staying home.

    This will form a base that can be built on in 2022 and 2024 for enacting the other more abstract approaches in your recent article that will not happen without your leadership in providing a single campaign for citizens to focus on now.

  4. Don klepack says:

    I agree with you that life saving Drugs must be made in America and we should not be held hostage in times of crisis too China and India. What I don’t understand is the attack on Trump over this issue. I know he’s a con man in many ways and falls short on all his promises but he’s been championing this effort since 2017, – This of course could be another con but unfortunately he and Rubio are he only ones pushing this.

    There was some money for Drugs in the stimulus package but the House bill added money for non pandemic issues and nothing for our Drug crisis.

    Thanks again for bringing this key issue on reliance on foreign sources for our Drugs that is so dangerous to our welfare.

    • Sean says:

      This is a good idea, public funding. Prof. Lessig convinced me about this. Media interest is nil however. Where’s the ad revenue coming from!!

  5. Eric Bernhoft says:

    It should be noted that John D. Rockefeller’s father sold snake-oil remedies.

  6. Bob Magyar says:

    At the same time our vital drug and medical supplies reside outside the U.S. making us vulnerable and harming our national security interests, all we hear from our government is that it wants to, “To protect our national security interests” and yet at the same time they cannot tell us anything because it would compromise our national security interests.

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