Person of the week: Heather Bresch, for trying to make generic drugs safer

How do you know whether the generic drugs you buy, made in India or China, actually contain what they claim, and in the stated strength? How do you know they don’t in fact contain contaminants, or even poisons?

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t inspect foreign pharmaceutical factories. Americans have died as the result of counterfeit medicines imported from abroad.

Take a look at your bottles of generic vitamins and aspirin. If it doesn’t say “Made in USA”, it wasn’t. Most name-brand medicines state the country of manufacture on the label. Many generics do not.

Heather Bresch, 42, is the president of Mylan, a generic drug manufacturer with factories in the U.S. and, since 2007, abroad. From those 2007 acquisitions she realized that foreign plants operate without FDA inspection, and therefore have a competitive advantage over American pharmaceutical plants which are inspected by the FDA.

Instead of shipping American manufacturing jobs abroad to capitalize on that competitive advantage, Heather Bresch decided that foreign pharmaceutical factories should be forced to meet the same standards as U.S. factories in order to sell their products in the U.S. She authored a plan to fund FDA inspection of foreign pharmaceutical plants by imposing a tax on the pharmaceutical industry itself.

According to the New York Times, that plan now has broad industry support and is on track for enactment by Congress, perhaps with an assist from Heather Bresch’s father, who happens to be U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

I hope that plan doesn’t get derailed by members of Congress who made pledges never to vote for any tax increases.

Thanks, Heather, for your efforts to protect Americans!

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