15. PRODUCTS UNSAFE AT HOME ARE STILL UNLOADED ABROAD
The top censored story of 1979 was called "The Corporate Crime
of the Century." It revealed how U.S. corporations "dumped"
illegal and dangerous products, including pharmaceuticals, on Third
World countries. Apparently the practice is continuing.
In late 1982, the University of California Press published a book titled
Prescriptions for Death: The Drugging of the Third World. The authors
expose the questionable tactics of pharmaceutical firms wherever government
regulations are weak or nonexistent.
One example given is "The Pill" which is advertised and prescribed
for use only as a contraceptive in America and Britain. However, in
Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, and Central America, many
brands of the pill are touted as remedies for premenstrual tension,
menstrual cramps, and even sterility. Most of them bear none of the
warnings against side effects or contraindications that are routine
in the U.S. and other western countries.
In 1982, Bangladesh ordered multinational drug manufacturers to halt
distribution of 1,742 drugs including some product of American companies.
The Ministry of Health also outlawed dangerous drugs like Clioquinol,
an anti-diarrhea drug that Japan banned years ago. American companies
subsequently withdrew the drug from the U.S. market voluntarily, but
continued selling it abroad in developing countries.
The Reagan Administration wanted to simplify the patchwork of laws
that drew international criticism ever since 1977 when companies were
able to export 2.4 million sets of banned children's pajamas. A draft
of the Administration's confidential trade policy proposal became public
in 1982 and was approved by a Cabinet-level committee. One of the provisions
was to give foreign governments volumes of regulatory export information
to help them set import policies but another provision would eliminate
export notification. There were other proposals but nothing was proposed
to actually ban unsafe products. In reality, the Reagan proposed called
for repealing a ban on export of unapproved drugs and pharmaceuticals,
potentially opening a flood of such exports to developing countries
that apparently have not been able to screen drugs individually.
As for drug safety, pharmaceutical manufacturers contend that a drug
banned in America many have benefits outweighing its risks in other
countries. Joe Boyd, spokesman for Ciba-Geigy, the American division
in Switzerland, agreed that paralysis and blindness were associated
with its Entero Vioform, which is among the brands of clioquinol Bangladesh
had banned, but said the benefits far out-weigh risks since it treats
a dysentery problem that can be life-threatening.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS, Prescriptions for Death: The Drugging
of the Third World, S. F. Chronicle review, by David Perlman; NEW YORK
TIMES, 8/22/82, "Products Unsafe at Home are still Unloaded Abroad,"
by Michael deCourcy Hinds.