In early January 2011, the popular and long-running news show 60 Minutes aired a segment on the whistleblower case against drug manufacturing giant GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of problem-plagued drugs like Paxil and Avandia.
During the segment, interviewer Scott Pelley got up close and personal with whistleblower Cheryl Eckard, who was the star witness in a class action lawsuit that was filed against Glaxo. Eckard told Pelley what she saw was wrong when she conducted her survey of the facility. She mentioned that she saw that the pills were being manufactured using tainted water, that Avandia and Paxil were being mixed up in packages together and that some of the Paxil was being produced in the wrong dosages.
Eckard mentioned that when she tried to inform Glaxo officials of the problems, they ignored her and shipped the drugs anyway. She went on to say that conditions in the Cidra, Puerto Rico, plant were the worst that she had ever seen in her entire career as a quality control manager.
As a result of her survey, Eckard took part in a large class action suit that was filed against Glaxo. The suit was settled when Glaxo decided to agree to a payout that totaled almost $1 billion. Glaxo ended up paying $150 million to the federal government in fines and another $600 million in damages. The lawsuit wasn’t just about the manufacturing conditions of the Cidra plant; it also alleged that Paxil caused birth defects for the babies of women that took the drug while they were pregnant.
While Glaxo officials deny accusations that they lied to the FDA about conditions at the Cidra plant, they go on to say that the drugs that were shipped from Puerto Rico were never shown to hurt anyone. As far back as October 2010, Glaxo officials issued a statement with regards to the manufacturing mistakes made at the Cidra plant that said, “We regret that we operated the Cidra facility in a manner that was inconsistent with current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) requirements and with GSK’s commitment to manufacturing quality.”