A cacophony of machines, some as big as a dump truck, mix pharmaceutical ingredients, press them into tablets, and fill capsules at a West Virginia factory owned by generic-drug giant Mylan. By the end of each run, the walls, ceilings, floors, and nearly every nook and cranny of the intricate equipment were caked in powdery drug residues, say three former Mylan employees.

No matter how much the machines and floors were swept and vacuumed and wiped down, “there was always powder left on the machines and walls,” said one employee who worked in packaging and other manufacturing roles for nearly five years until being laid off last year. “You see the powder everywhere.”

Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT Plus and enjoy your first 30 days free!

GET STARTED

What is it?

STAT Plus is STAT's premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond.

What's included?

  • Daily reporting and analysis
  • The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters
  • Subscriber-only newsletters
  • Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day
  • STAT+ Conversations
  • Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations
  • Exclusive industry events
  • Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country
  • The best reporters in the industry
  • The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry
  • And much more
  • Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr.
  • Hmmm….seems as if the commenters are missing the point. Regardless of the intent, good or bad, of the author or the “disgruntled” employees, the data is from the USGS and the evidence highly indicates that pharmaceuticals manufactured at these companies are ending up in the rivers downstream from these manufacturing locations in significant if not environmentally toxic levels. Ummmm, let me repeat that for you. “ENVIRONMENTALLY TOXIC LEVELS OF PHARMACEUTICALS FOUND DOWNSTREAM OF MANUFACTURED LOCATIONS”

    That’s the failing of capitalism right there. Doesn’t account for the externalities, i.e pollution, that we have to contend with.

  • Sounds like disgruntled ex-employees trying to stir up trouble. Maybe the author should have taken the time to ask Mylan about the procedure they use for cleansing rooms. As a previous employee I also helped clean these rooms. The waste water is treated in a certain way so that it is not dumped into the local waterways. And the rooms are tested after each clean to make sure that no pharmaceutical residue is left behind. Shame on those disgruntled ex employees and shame on the author for not doing more research. Fake news is spreading like a disease.

  • No doubt this is a problem and it needs fixed. It will not be an easy fix. Before everyone jumps on the hate big pharma bandwagon. Ask your self if you can do without your meds. Everyone wants to live to be 100 years old and rely on big pharma to get them there. Without the antibiotics and pain meds and all the other life saving drugs you all wont make it past 30 years old. History proves that. So be a part of the solution not a part of the hate group.

  • This is an age old problem and has been batted around but no one has stepped to the plate to address it. Fundamentally every API (active pharma ingredient) is a toxin that kills disease curing bacteria. Many of the byproducts from the reactions are toxins also. Excess of these are harmful to land, birds, humans and aquatic life. In 2007 I addressed this issue.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220009804_Pharmaceuticals_Their_Manufacturing_Methods_Ecotoxicology_and_Human_Life_Relationship.
    Another article link is https://pharmachemicalscoatings.blogspot.com/2009/02/patancheru-india-opportunity-for.html.

    These articles cite Dr. Larsson.

    Ecotoxicology is a major issue but is most ignored. Companies might comply with water, land or air pollution laws but long term impact of chemicals is least understood. Just for simplification if a process has 10 chemical reactions with 95% conversion yield per step, overall yield would be about 60% and that means 40% of the raw materials that produce toxic drugs to cure a disease had to be disposed off in water or land. Point is there are opportunities to improve but they are not a normal thinking in Pharma landscape. Getting a drug to the market is and is the ONLY consideration.

    One fact folks do not realize that with lack of economies of scale API and their formulations are being done at many places. Linked https://bit.ly/2TYQeOQ shows SIX common drugs are being produced at about 380 plants. These are strong toxins and since the raw material conversions are not 100% significant amounts of pollutants are being released to our ecosystem.

    As the say “HOUSTON YOU HAVE A PROBLEM”.

    We are not leaving a GREAT legacy.

    • Apparently this whole story was written by a misinformed author as well as three disgruntled employees which neither has their facts straight. Maybe the author should have checked with the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) beforehand to get a much informed update on how the operations at this certain site abides to ALL waste disposal protocols. I know for a fact that Mylan runs their site in accordance to ALL codes and goes up and beyond to makes sure everything concerning waste is properly disposed of. It’s really a shame that some disgruntled employees would make up these false statements and that someone would print something without getting a better look at what they were writing or talking about. Next time try interviewing within the site instead of taking notes from someone who isn’t affiliated with Mylan, I should know, I’ve been with this company for 30+ years.

    • So Mike is as biased as it gets – working for the polluter. Nice that all codes are adhered to – but when were these standards last updated? Alo 30+ years ago?

  • Great article that ought to have some effect on how drug plants are managed ! An excellent yet bleak picture of typical blatant US wild-west oversight / neglect / laziness : how on earth is it tolerated that in a so-called civilized nation “pharmaceuticals are not a regulated pollutant in the U.S.” ?? This is brutal abuse of the envirionment, without any compunction about i.e. increasing antibiotic resistance, and totally mis-directed blaming of individuals rather than the big guilty careless kahunas : the drug manufacturers. As rivers flow to oceans that all on the globe share: this horrific effluent flow MUST be curbed !!

    • Typical response from someone (Janice) who knows nothing about this company and assumes like the rest. Get the “facts” before you whine.

  • well, that explains why pottyus is all of a sudden concerned with flushing toilets, aka relaxing water safety and conservation standards

Comments are closed.

Sign up to receive a free weekly opinions recap from our community of experts.
Privacy Policy