Names in the News

Heart Attack

A FAMILY OF POPULAR HEART DRUGS produced by St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M Company and other pharmaceutical companies resulted in the deaths of an estimated 50,000 patients, according to Thomas J. Moore in his recently released book, Deadly Medicine: Why Tens of Thousands of Heart Patients Died in America's Worst Drug Disaster.

 The book documents how in late 1985, the 3M Company, anxious to expand its small foothold in the pharmaceutical business, announced the introduction of its first major new drug - Tambocor.

 Within two years, pharmacists were filling thousands of prescriptions per month for the drug, which was developed to treat patients with irregular heartbeats.

 But in 1989, a clinical trial conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicated that the drug was killing patients rather than saving them, Moore said.

 Moore, a senior fellow at George Washington University's Center for Health Policy Research, estimates that 50,000 people died from taking Tambocor and other drugs intended to prevent cardiac arrest.

 In the book, Moore charges that:

 o The drug industry persuaded thousands of doctors across the country to prescribe expensive drugs on the basis of an unproven medical theory. Researchers believed that suppressing mild premature heartbeats would prevent lethal cardiac arrests. But over a decade's time, 28 clinical experiments failed to demonstrate the expected benefits.

 o Even before it was approved, the 3M company and outside medical experts knew Tambocor could cause deaths.

 o The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also knew about the dangers. "This drug kills people," one top FDA doctor told 3M officials as the agency considered whether to approve Tambocor.

 Moore alleges that 3M successfully waged a high-pressure campaign to persuade the FDA to relax safety restrictions on the Tambocor label, despite growing evidence about the dangers of the entire class of antiarrhythmic drugs.

 Moore says that despite repeated warnings about this family of drugs, thousands of physicians continue to place their patients at risk of premature death through inappropriate use of the drugs.

 In a prepared statement, 3M said Moore's allegations "have no scientific merit whatsoever - they're just plain wrong."

 "Tambocor is a highly effective medicine that dramatically improves the lives of thousands of people," the 3M statement said. "Tambocor has been thoroughly studied and tested since the mid-1970s by hundreds of leading heart specialists and 3M scientists. It is approved for use in more than 50 countries, some for over a decade."


Junk Cruise

REGENCY CRUISES INC. WAS ORDERED TO PAY $250,000 in March 1995 for deliberately dumping plastic garbage into the Gulf of Mexico in 1993.

 Regency Cruises, owner of the Bahamian flag cruise ships Regent Rainbow and Regent Sea based in Tampa, was charged and pled guilty to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

 "Congress and the international community have banned plastic pollution because of its damaging effects on the environment and wildlife," said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lois J. Schiffer. "Dumping is all too common a problem in the shipping industry."

 The Regency case is only the third one to charge dumping of plastic in violation of the Act and the first to charge dumping of plastic beyond the U.S. 12-mile territorial limit.

 On February 6, 1993, local fishers saw a school of porpoises swimming through a swarm of plastic garbage bags approximately 25 to 30 miles off of St. Petersburg Beach. The fishers immediately notified the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Tampa.

 Following the fishers' instructions, the Coast Guard was able to retrieve some of the bags, which contained information pertaining to that week's voyage of the Regent Rainbow.

 A second crime was detected after a cruise ship passenger aboard the Regent Sea witnessed the crew dumping plastic bags approximately 29 miles off Cortez/Brandenton, Florida, during a cruise that departed and returned to Tampa in February 1993.

 Those who provide information leading to a conviction under the Act to Prevent Pollution From Ships may be rewarded up to one half of the amount of any resulting fine.


Pulp Nonfiction

THE WATERS NEAR THE KETCHIKAN PULP COMPANY (KPC) PLANT in Alaska's Ward Cove have been classified as "imperiled" by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the adverse cumulative effect from waste discharges including solids, toxic chemicals, alkaline substances, and oxygen- depleting materials that deprived the cove of its potential as a marine habitat. The vicinity of Ward Cove is populated by numerous species of wildlife, including Killer Whales, Salmon, Sea Otters and various birds.

 Now, after pleading guilty to dumping harmful sludge and wastewater into Ward Cove, KPC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Louisiana-Pacific Corporation, will pay $3 million in criminal fines and $3.1 million in civil penalties, and has agreed to clean up the damage it caused.

 More than half of the criminal penalty will be suspended if KPC spends at least $1.75 million to complete a pollution prevention program.

 "KPC committed environmental crimes over a long period of time," says Lois Schiffer, assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources. "The plea agreement gives the company significant incentive to clean up its act, and it also includes management controls to help assure that KPC will not pollute in the future."

 - Russell Mokhiber