The Multinational Monitor

APRIL 1989 - VOLUME 10 - NUMBER 4


N A M E S   I N   T H E   N E W S

Drug Wars

A major lawsuit filed by the pharmaceutical giant Warner-Lambert against one of its leading chemical suppliers, Rohm & Haas Company, is exposing some unseemly aspects of the international pharmaceuticals trade. Warner-Lambert charges that it bought large quantities of a contaminated chemical from Rohm & Haas for use in a drug called Cholybar, a cholesterol-lowering product which Warner-Lambert's Parke-Davis Group planned to market. Warner-Lambert attorneys say the chemical was contaminated with a carcinogenic pesticide at Rohm & Haas's plant in Italy where they manufacture both pharmaceutical products and pesticides.

Warner-Lambert's suit alleges that the contaminated supplies delayed Cholybar's introduction to the market by six months, giving Warner-Lambert's competitors a crucial marketing edge.

Warner-Lambert officials are asking a New Jersey court to force Rohm & Haas to make up some of the company's losses.

One of those lucky competitors taking advantage of Warner- Lambert's misfortune, the lawsuit charges, was Bristol-Myers, the manufacturers of a cholesterol-lowering product called Questran. Bristol-Myers is also a Rohm & Haas client, and it, too, received contaminated supplies of the necessary chemical ingredient. Warner-Lambert's lawsuit claims that Bristol-Myers went ahead and sold Questran despite the contamination in order to get a jump on Cholybar.

Rohm & Haas officials admit that supplies of the chemical in question were, in fact, "accidentally contaminated," " but are calling the Warner-Lambert lawsuit "outrageous." A company news release on the subject reads, "We are astonished that a company of this caliber would choose to mislead the public through a headline-seeking campaign."

Exposing the Stealth

The Lockheed Corporation was hit with a $1.49 million fine last month for willfully endangering workers at its Burbank, California aircraft plant where the stealth bomber is manufactured. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) levied the penalty, charging that workers were exposed to hazardous chemicals without proper safeguards or notification. Lockheed's Burbank employees have complained that chemicals associated with the sophisticated composite materials used in manufacturing the "radar-proof" bomber cause health problems including rashes, severe headaches, chest pains and nervous disorders. The composites in question are lightweight materials made of plastics mixed with carbon, ceramic or synthetic fibers. The fibers may contain a wide range of dangerous chemicals, including several known and suspected carcinogens.

OSHA announced that the violation was discovered during plant inspections which were sparked by worker complaints. Skeptics, however, note that OSHA's action came on the heels of much-publicized Senate hearings on health hazards at Lockheed's aircraft manufacturing facilities and at similar facilities operated by the Boeing Company. At those hearings, OSHA and its state-level counterparts were criticized sharply for failing to respond appropriately to the problems.

To date there has been no action against Boeing's aircraft manufacturing facilities, despite similar health problems among workers at the Auburn, Washington plant where the company manufactures its stealth fighter plane.

Citicorp and Brazil

The relationship between Citicorp and the Brazilian economy came full circle in the last quarter of 1988. Brazil's repayment of $436 million in interest pushed Citicorp's profits up by 20 percent compared with the previous year, according to The Working People's News.

Brazil raised the money by instituting austerity measures which cut social services, withdrawing food subsidies and reducing health expenditures. Brazil has also been exploiting its rain forest to raise short-term capital without considering the dangerous and harmful impact the loss of this resource will have on the country.

Several other large banks along with Citicorps depended on Brazilian debt payments to bolster their quarterly earnings. The Working People's News reports that almost 90 percent, or $240 million, of J.P. Morgan's $258 million in earnings for the last quarter of 1988 were from Brazil.

Instead of investing in future productivity the country is forced to spend its limited capital repaying loans.

The banks must maintain this vicious cycle for their own viability. The real trick for debtor nation and bank alike will be extricating themselves from this mess with-out forcing an explosion like that seen in Venezuela several weeks ago. And without causing the collapse of the largest banking institutions.

Boycott Exxon

A variety of citizen and environmental groups are calling for a boycott of Exxon because of its role in causing the devasting oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound. Organizers say that a boycott is the only way to bring the financial costs of the spill to the corporation's doorstep. "Everything else is insured and deductible," said Ralph Nader, a consumer advocate.

For information on how to join the boycott contact: The League of Conservation Voters, 2000 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; Congress Watch, 215 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20003; or Citizen Action, 1300 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

By Garth Bray


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