Exec on Bad AIDS Drugs: 'Who Cares? It's Just Blacks Dying'

Ranbaxy Laboratories has pleaded guilty to selling adulterated drugs. Fortune has an account of what one insider said were internal attitudes toward the India-based company's most vulnerable victims. 

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HIV-positive orphans take anti-retroviral drugs at a clinic in Uganda. (Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)

On May 13, India-based generic-drug manufacturer Ranbaxy Laboratories pleaded guilty to seven federal criminal counts of selling adulterated drugs with intent to defraud, failing to report that its drugs didn't meet specifications and making intentionally false statements to the U.S. government.

In other words, it sold generic medications for everything from ear infections to AIDS that weren’t anywhere near as effective as they should have been.

Although no current or former executives were charged with crimes, Fortune's detailed report of what occurred inside Ranbaxy contains a disturbing account of its attitudes from Dr. Kathy Spreen, who was the company's executive director of clinical medicine and pharmacovigilance.

 Thakur knew the drugs weren't good. They had high impurities, degraded easily, and would be useless at best in hot, humid conditions. They would be taken by the world's poorest patients in sub-Saharan Africa, who had almost no medical infrastructure and no recourse for complaints. The injustice made him livid.

"Ranbaxy executives didn't care, says Kathy Spreen, and made little effort to conceal it. In a conference call with a dozen company executives, one brushed aside her fears about the quality of the AIDS medicine Ranbaxy was supplying for Africa. "Who cares?" he said, according to Spreen. "It's just blacks dying ... "

Ranbaxy will pay $500 million in fines, forfeitures and penalties.

Read more at Fortune.

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