Transcript: Thom Hartmann & Mike Papantonio: Yaz...what did "Big Pharma" forget to tell us? October 20, 2011

Thom Hartmann: first, one of my favorite people, an absolute genius, both as a, as a programmer, as a guy who does media, radio and television, and as an attorney and political analyst. Mike Papantonio on the line with us. Attorney and senior partner of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A., and host of Ring of Fire Radio with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Sam Seder. is the website. Mike, or Pap, welcome. Welcome back to the program.

Mike Papantonio: Thom, how are ya?

Thom Hartmann: Just great, great to have you with us. I was astounded to read this story that you guys are going after right now about this 24-year-old woman who saw an ad and said that’s something I need, and now is blind. Tell us about that.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Well Yaz unfortunately is a big cash cow for the company Bayer. Bayer figured that even though there are tons and tons of contraceptives on the market, they wanted to get part of that deal. They wanted to carve out their own cash cow. And so they came up with something called Yaz. And here’s what they told everybody, Thom. They said our, that our contraceptive is special. We called it the magic pill, we call it that special kind of magic pill. And what it’s supposed to do for you is if you have premenstrual problems, premenstrual syndrome problems, then this is going to solve those problems. Or if, if you have acne of any kind, this is going to solve your acne problem. The problem is when they, they found out that when they tested their product, Yaz, with a sugar pill, just an everyday common sugar pill called a placebo, that there was no difference between that sugar pill and Yaz. Now that didn’t stop them from doing it anyway. They went out and marketed it this even though, even though Thom, they knew that there was a 6.3 increase risk of a person dying of an embolism, of a young woman dying of an embolism.

Thom Hartmann: Of a blood clot.

Mike Papantonio: If you consider this, it’s 6.3 increase for an embolism is huge.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, hang on just a second. By 6.3 you’re talking about 6.3 times, that’s 630% increased probability of dying of a blood clot?

Mike Papantonio: That’s right. 6.3 fold increase is what they found. Now this is a Dutch study, they knew about the study. As a matter of fact there were three other studies that showed similar kinds of problems, similar kinds of increased risk. Didn’t stop the FDA from saying you can sell it anyway. As a matter of fact, today if you can imagine, after hundreds of people have died, after hundreds of people have been crippled by all kinds of strokes, heart attacks, embolisms, you name it, this has, this drug has the ability to do that, even though that’s happening, the pharmaceutical industry is so strong in this country that they’re still meeting about whether or not they need to do anything about it.

Thom Hartmann: You mean this product is still on the market?

Mike Papantonio: It’s still on the market. As a matter of fact, Thom, right now it’s the number one best selling contraceptive in America, as we speak.

Thom Hartmann: That’s incredible.

Mike Papantonio: They have all the information. Every day there’s new information coming out about how bad this product is.

Thom Hartmann: So the story of Carissa Ubersox. Here, this woman actually, you would think being a pediatric nurse that she would understand the consequence. I mean, you know, that’s about as informed a consumer as you can get, and yet she was suckered in by an ad she saw that said this would cure her acne and deal with her PMS problems because she wanted to get married and she wanted to have a perfect wedding and have all this stuff under control, right? Do I have that story right?

Mike Papantonio: Thom, you got it right on the head. The conduct of this company is so bad that this company was operating under what they call a corporate integrity agreement. That is, where the government says we can’t trust you anymore, Bayer. We’ve looked at what you’ve done, you’ve had to plead to felonies where you’ve paid incredible fines, 33 million, 250 million dollars in fines. And since our justice system in this country can’t go to the corporation and arrest somebody and throw them in jail, all we do is fine them when they cause harm. And so what a company like, just like Bayer does, just like Bayer, we see time and time again, is they do a computation. They say look, all we have to do is get the drug on the market. Once we can get FDA approval, we know it’s going to be five or six years, no matter what they do to us, fighting us off every day, no matter what they do, we’re going to get five or six years of sales out of this product.

Now this is a company that is selling a product to the rate of about 1.8 billion dollars a year. So it’s a pretty good risk for them. They really don’t really care how many people they cripple or kill because when they do the numbers at the end of the day they’ve made a lot of money.

Thom Hartmann: This is like the old Chevy side saddle or the Pinto or for that matter Vioxx.

Mike Papantonio: Exactly.

Thom Hartmann: So, and in the midst of this, Mike Papantonio, we’ve got republicans in their debate the night before last. The main, their idea of creating jobs is to cut back on regulations.

Mike Papantonio: Right.

Thom Hartmann: Tell me how insane this is?

Mike Papantonio: This is a great example of it. The industry has already succeeded in cutting back on regulations, Thom. What they’ve done is that they’ve made it to where if you go to work for the FDA, chances are at some point you’re going to work for Bayer. So it’s a good ol’ boy system. The people who allowed this to happen, and as we happen are still allowing it to happen. You understand their committees meeting, can you imagine. All the facts are in, the dead people are in, the crippled people are in. But the FDA says no well we’re going to put together a committee and decide how long this is going to go on. You know why that happens, is because Bayer has, is able to make telephone calls. I call them the Billy Bob telephone call. That’s where they call Billy Bob who works for the FDA and say you know I don’t think this, I don’t think these facts are right, I don’t think these statistics are right. I think this study is bad. Could you let us keep the product on the market? And by the way, Billy Bob, we may have a position for you when you leave Bayer.

Thom Hartmann: Right and right now you’re working for the FDA at 68,000 bucks a year and when you come to work for us it will be a quarter million.

Mike Papantonio: Exactly. That’s exactly, and that’s exactly what we see virtually in every pharmaceutical company, with every one of these drugs that we’ve talked about.

Thom Hartmann: Well and the same thing is happening with the coal regulators in the coal industry, we saw this with the mine.

Mike Papantonio: Yes. BP, saw it with BP.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, same thing with the oil and the oil industry, the energy industry. How do we break this, how do we stop this other than litigation and now you’ve got republicans running around with this tort reform mantra which is their way of saying oh and by the way when companies do what you’ve just described, you can only sue for a maximum of a quarter million bucks, even if you’re dead or blind.

Mike Papantonio: right. Give them immunity. Let me put that in perspective.

Thom Hartmann: We have a minute left, Mike.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, the perspective is real quick. A company that is defending, the law firm that is defending this company will make millions and millions of dollars. But they’re saying to the person who is killed or crippled, sorry we can only pay you $150,000 or $20,000 even though you’re blind, eve though you’re crippled, even though your life has changed in such a dismal way. That’s the republican idea of tort reform.

Thom Hartmann: It’s incredible. And not only are they pushing it, but every single conservative that comes on this program says this is, in order to solve America’s problems, we need to cut regulations. And it’s like republican voters are buying this stuff.

Mike Papantonio: Right. Well isn’t it great when nobody is looking over your shoulder, Thom. When you can just do whatever the hell you want to do and…

Thom Hartmann: It is if you’re a sociopath.

Mike Papantonio: Exactly.

Thom Hartmann: I think most of us look at this and are pretty horrified and wouldn’t do it anyway.

Mike Papantonio: Right, exactly. We’re not, yeah. The average, most corporate arrangements right now is set up to where the sociopath actually thrives and that’s what republicans have bought into.

Thom Hartmann: Right. Yeah. And corporations are by definition sociopathic in that their charter requires them to do what’s best for profits not what’s best for people. That’s virtually a DSM-IV definition. Anyhow Mike Papantonio. You’re doing great work, Pap, keep it up.

Mike Papantonio: Thank you Thom.

Thom Hartmann: Thanks for being with us.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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