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Supplements Are Contaminated, Drugs Pure. Right? No, Wrong

Tylenol-Recall-JJAre megabucks of drug company advertising buying major media silence about shoddy practices?

You’ll never guess the name of the company we are about to describe. This year alone it has issued nine product recalls, over 130 million of their products are off the shelves, thirty children have died from taking its medications, its CEO has been the subject of Congressional hearings and investigations, its quality problems are called “systemic” by federal investigators, and a number its foreign executives are being investigated or are in prison for bribery charges.
Is this some shady fly-by-night supplement company? No, it’s one of the best known and most respected companies in America with a 124-year history: Johnson & Johnson. Considering the amount of negative media attention paid to dietary supplements, we wonder why the mainstream media isn’t giving this story much coverage. Could it have something to do with the $2.5 billion J&J spends each year on advertising?
US health regulators are investigating 775 reported complications from the global drug company’s children’s medications, including 30 deaths—seven of which came after the most recent recall on April 29. While the FDA does not consider the adverse events a “spike” and absurdly claims it sees no “clear pattern” that the problems were caused by the recalled products, the Agency says there are “systemic quality problems” and “has had growing concerns about the quality of the company’s manufacturing process.” The recalls have involved problems ranging from contamination with bacteria and a nauseating smell from containers to liquid medicines that may contain tiny metal shavings and drugs that may not have the correct amount of active ingredient.
Just this month the FDA decided to recall two kinds of hip implants manufactured by Johnson & Johnson—a full two years after the Agency started receiving complaints from consumers.
J&J ordered a recall of about 100,000 boxes of contact lenses sold in Asia and Europe after customers in Japan complained about experiencing pain, stinging, or redness after inserting the lenses. And the company’s medical devices unit in Shanghai is being investigated for allegedly paying bribes to a top official in the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration.
The media have not, by and large, made much of these scandals—just a few short news articles, but certainly no cause célèbre. And even though the FDA is investigating, the government never really prosecutes the big drug companies. Why is this? One reason may be that the drug companies pay record sums to settle criminal and civil government allegations (last year Pfizer paid a whopping $2.3 billion in settlements), and federal and state medical programs get a chunk of that money. Perhaps more importantly, federal programs are legally barred from buying drugs or reimbursing drugs from companies convicted of a criminal offense. Since it is inconceivable to shut down access to the bigger drug companies, they become “too big to convict” and thus in effect above the law.
Here’s a perfect example: in 2009, the Justice Department could have charged Eli Lilly and Company with a felony for earning hundreds of millions of dollars by illegally promoting its schizophrenia drug Zyprexa for the unapproved treatment of dementia from 1999 to at least 2003. Prosecutors decided that it wouldn’t be fair to innocent Lilly employees, shareholders, and pensioners to potentially shut down the company, according to the sentencing memo, but the real reason was probably fear of not having access to Lilly drugs.

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20 thoughts on “Supplements Are Contaminated, Drugs Pure. Right? No, Wrong

  • We need to keep up the fight VS the FDA Federales against natural supplements. Please do a list
    of natural supplement supporters and have it handy for any fight in the future.
    Please enter my wife’s name to the list also, Carmen

  • jack eich

    doctors and pharmacies are legal drug dealers. not one drug helps you ,just addicts you. herbs and healthy eating change your body without drugs. grow up and eat healthy

  • Susan Rautine

    The buyer beware, yes, but unless accountability of these companies is mandated, the recourse for patients is often confusion and threats to their health and welfare. It seems the tendency continues for corporations to get away with these atrocities that lead to poor health. Unfortunately education about the danger of drugs and faulty appliances is either counteracted by slick advertising or Internet information is squelched or sabotaged in some way.

  • Charles

    All that malarkey about how green and how they never introduced a low quality product. Family values! I made up my mind to never buy anything with J&J on the label

  • Susan Rautine

    The buyer beware, yes, but unless accountability of these companies is mandated, the recourse for patients is often confusion and threats to their health and welfare. It seems the tendency continues for corporations to get away with these atrocities that lead to poor health. Unfortunately education about the danger of drugs and faulty appliances is either counteracted by slick advertising or Internet information is squelched or sabotaged in some way. Thank you for this article.

  • Styxter

    Add Consumer Reports to the list of publications bought off by big pharma. The blaring headline of their September 2010 issue was “The 12 Most Dangerous Supplements – Which Ones to Avoid – Why They’re on the Market.” The current issue warns “Because raw milk can harbor harmful bacteria, the Food and Drug Administration recommends against drinking it.”
    I will not be renewing my subscription.

    • Joseph Bencze, Health Guru

      Styxter…I realised 15 years ago that Consumer Reported was a load of bull when thay put out a “Vitamin” issue that was 6 pages long and NOT ONE SENTENCE WAS TRUE! I kept reading page after page not believing that they could write a whole article without one correct statement, but I was wrong. They are just as corrupt as the US Federal Gov,

  • Seth

    At least we know of theses abuses. You will never hear of the abuses of the suppliment companies because they are completely unregulated.

    • Denise

      That’s true. The problem is the system. The fact that anyone – big pharma or supplement co’s or food co’s for that matter can use us as cheap and disposable guinea pigs is terrible. Basically the system says – you can buy our forgiveness and ignorance if the price is right. Not only that – we will legislate to make sure no one can legally speak of your poisonous secrets – look at the Veggie Libel laws! Hello!
      Unfortunately, my son takes these meds – the Benedryl and Zyrtec – because of food allergies and allergies. We have tried many supplements, dietary adjustments, herbs… and I would love to try bovine thymus extract. But if you see the state of our cattle production you would definitely agree, that may not be the safest option. And regulation – shmegulation – will not improve it. The USDA doesn’t even allow cattle producers who WANT to test for BSE to do it.
      Am I totally naive that we could all just somehow wake up and tap into our humanity – everyone. From the money intoxicated politicians who make regulations that allow corporations to function unchecked – to the also money drunk execs who view everyone as only numbers that add or subtract from the bottom line to all of us who are so overwhelmed, under-organized, and somewhat hypnotized.
      Come on! We’re all here sharing this experience – can’t we try to do some good for each other while we’re here.

  • Alan8

    The root of the problem is the corporate corruption of the mainstream political parties; they both receive THE MAJORITY of their funding from corporate sources.
    We need to fight back by voting for the Green Party, which doesn’t accept ANY corporate money.
    2-3% of the vote for the Green Party will send a strong message to the Democrats that we’re fed up with their corruption and business-first agenda. In a close election, 2-3% can flip the result, so this will get their attention.
    5% of the vote will get the Green Party matching Federal funds, and will start the process of taking our country back from the corporations.

  • AK

    Seth says that the supplement industry is “completely unregulated”. Apparently Seth has never heard of DSHEA!

  • Elisabeth

    To Denise whose son takes Benedryl and Zyrtec.
    Alternative medicine is much more than just herbs and vitamins. Have you tried acupuncture or chiropractic yet? Also, Energy Balancing has worked well for many, as has Lymphatic Drainage. A good systemic cleanse can also help. I’ve also gotten relief using the method EFT – I would suggest sticking with the founder Gary Craig’s website though, as he isn’t looking to make money with his technique, some others are. http://www.selfgrowth.com/experts/gary_craig.html
    Here is a website that has dozens of allergy remedy methods. One of them is bound to help you son without also damaging his organs. http://naturalallergycures.net/?tag=naet
    Or, you can go to “goodsearch.com” and search for – Natural Allergy Cures.
    Good luck to you.
    “All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

  • Mark McLean

    The FDA is a crooked organization. They are bought by pharmaceutical companies. How can any honest organization approve drugs with 50 to 100 side affects, some of which will KILL YOU?

  • Get a bolder share button and place it ant the end of your articles and at the top of the page, make it easy. I almost missed it and I was looking hard!
    Posted on all my social networks, dug and stumbled!

  • Liza

    I work in a supermarket health and beauty care department. People STILL come in looking for Tylenol, Motrin, St. Joseph’s aspirin and other McNeil recalled items. Some of them have NO idea that these items were recalled or why. Personally, I would never take any of these otc drugs ever again. But the customers being so unaware is scary. Some Tylenol products come in intermittently. I put them on the shelf and as fast as I put it out it’s gone the next day. These recalls will probably have no effect on J&J. Just a drop in the bucket for them.

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