Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Policy Realism in India

Shamelessly lifted from here but it really struck a chord. I fear I might be turning into a cynic myself. 

A cynic’s perspective on robust policy design
The first law of policy realism
A policy that relies on the Indian citizen to act in selfless public interest will not work. In fact, a policy that expects an Indian citizen to act in anything but self-interest and relative gain will not work.
The second law of policy realism
A policy that expects Indian citizens to adhere to a process—any process—will not work as intended, because people will ignore, work around or actively undermine the process.
Implications of the above:
1. Policies must be designed to appeal to self-interest and maximise relative gains (in other words, the citizen must feel s/he will get more out of it compared to others).
2. Policy design must incorporate processes that are consistent with people’s mindsets and are resistant to being undermined.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's China's world.

And we're just living in it. Really, how could you see this picture below and not come to that conclusion?

You might also want to read this NYT article, which is the source for the above. We're so far behind in this game its not even funny. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Murugappa in The Economist

The Murugappa Group has been featured in a pithy 600-word article in The Economist with the lead: 
A rare south Indian business house does things the difficult way

I'm just curious, how did this happen? How did they get picked up to be featured in the issue? I'm not implying any dishonesty, honestly, I'm just curious. I don't know why this particular article aroused my curiosity. 

I didn't know they had such a reputation for honesty. But then, there's a lot I don't know.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Would you buy Ranbaxy's drugs?

If there's just one thing you read this week or even this month, read this long and damning article over at Fortune about Ranbaxy and the fraud for which it actually paid USD 500 million. I'll leave you to your own conclusions, but I couldn't resist making a list of some of the most damning lines from the article. And after you finish reading the article, tell me this:

a) Would you be comfortable buying Ranbaxy's drugs ever again?
b) Would you be comfortable buying any Indian manufacturer's drugs? 

For as I read the article, I nodded along. All the while. That is how it is in India. And not just pharma, every manufacturing industry has companies like this, yes? No documentation, forged stuff, backdated stuff, cutting corners wherever possible. 

I hate the word jugaad. I hate what it implies, I hate its connotations. People have written whole books about it and it just makes me sad. Jugaad is alright as long as its temporary. Jugaad isn't permanence. It shouldn't be. Jugaad just means that the system got so bad and so out of hand that you had to do something, anything just to get the slightest amount of work done. Jugaad means you've given up on the system or what's more likely, there's no system in the first place.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. Here are your quotes:

  1. On May 13, Ranbaxy 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 government.
  2.  It is not a tale of cutting corners or lax manufacturing practices but one of outright fraud, in which the company knowingly sold substandard drugs around the world -- including in the U.S. -- while working to deceive regulators. The impact on patients will likely never be known. But it is clear that millions of people worldwide got medicine of dubious quality from Ranbaxy.
  3. The official explained, Thakur says, that the company culture was for management to dictate the results it wanted and for those beneath to bend the process to achieve it. He described how Ranbaxy took its greatest liberties in markets where regulation was weakest and the risk of discovery was lowest. He acknowledged there was no data supporting some of Ranbaxy's drug applications in those regions and that management knew that, according to Thakur.
  4. The company manipulated almost every aspect of its manufacturing process to quickly produce impressive-looking data that would bolster its bottom line. "This was not something that was concealed," Thakur says. It was "common knowledge among senior managers of the company, heads of research and development, people responsible for formulation to the clinical people."
  5. Lying to regulators and backdating and forgery were commonplace, he says. The company even forged its own standard operating procedures, which FDA inspectors rely on to assess whether a company is following its own policies. Thakur's team was told of one instance in which company officials forged and backdated a standard operating procedure related to how patient data are stored, then aged the document in a "steam room" overnight to fool regulators.
  6. The confidential report laid bare systemic fraud in Ranbaxy's worldwide regulatory filings. It found that "the majority of products filed in Brazil, Mexico, Middle East, Russia, Romania, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, African Nations, have data submitted which did not exist or data from different products and from different countries ..." The company not only invented data but also fraudulently mixed and matched data, taking the best results from manufacturing in one market and presenting it to regulators elsewhere as data unique to the drugs in their markets.
  7. Sometimes all the data were made up. In India and Latin America, the report noted the "non-availability" of validation methods, stability data, and bio-equivalence reports. In short, Ranbaxy had almost no method whatsoever for validating the content of the drugs in those markets. The drugs for Brazil were particularly troubling. The report showed that of the 163 drug products approved and sold there since 2000, only eight had been fully and accurately tested. The rest had been filed with phony data because they had been only partially tested, or not at all.
  8. For its HIV drugs, the report found that Ranbaxy had used ingredients that failed purity tests and blended them with good ingredients until the resulting mix met requirements. Such a mélange could degrade or become toxic far more quickly than drugs made from the high-quality materials required.
  9. Six other pharma veterans who worked for Ranbaxy in the U.S. as recently as 2010 tell Fortune they found themselves in a corporate culture like nothing they'd ever experienced. Executives approached the regulatory system as an obstacle to be gamed. They bragged about who had most artfully deceived regulators. Until 2005 the company didn't even have a functioning patient-safety department, and patient complaints piled up in boxes, ignored, uncategorized, and unreported to the FDA as required.
  10. In entire markets -- including Brazil, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Egypt, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Peru, and the Dominican Republic -- the company had simply not tested the drugs and had invented all the data.
  11. Everywhere the FDA had looked, its inspectors found fraud. Four months earlier, at a unit of Paonta Sahib, agency investigators discovered that supervisors who had supposedly overseen critical manufacturing steps weren't even at the plant on the days they signed off on the tests. "The culture of the company was corrupt to its core," says Nelson.
  12. The congressional inquiry into the FDA petered out over the years. But under the direction of David Nelson, investigators interviewed the FDA inspectors who went to Paonta Sahib and asked them a simple question: Would they feel comfortable taking Ranbaxy drugs? "Every single inspector that went to India said they would never take a Ranbaxy drug," says Nelson, "like eight out of eight."They were not alone. One by one, each of the former Ranbaxy executives Fortune interviewed had determined, while still at the company, to stop taking Ranbaxy drugs.
This doesn't cover all the parts, just the juiciest bits. Really though, you should read that article. Even the FDA doesn't come out very well, and it shouldn't. 

Also, here's the official Dept. of Justice press release. You should just go through it, because. And of course, think about these two things as well:
a) The company admitted criminal fraud, and no one's going to jail.
b) How much of this have you heard in the newspaper you read / TV news show that you watch? 

Happy thinking, everyone. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Two Cows...

The latest in the always-interesting lives of Two Cows... I'd suggest clicking on it to get a better look.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, a very influential/well-known professor from Columbia University, absolutely laid the smack-down on the American banking system. In case you have around 30 minutes to spare, do listen to this.

  • Wall Street is full of “crooks,” and it never properly cleaned up its act after the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.
  • What has been revealed, in my view, is prima facie criminal behavior
  • It’s financial fraud on a very large extent. There’s also a tremendous amount of insider trading — you can even watch when you are living in New York how that works.
  • We have a corrupt politics to the core, I am afraid to say, and . . . both parties are up to their neck in this. This has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans.
  • They have no responsibility to pay taxes; they have no responsibility to their clients; they have no responsibility to people, to counterparties in transactions. They are tough, greedy, aggressive and feel absolutely out of control in a quite literal sense, and they have gamed the system to a remarkable extent.
Remarkable. Do give it a look.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Not again, not again...

But yeah, again.

More than 4 months now, and no posts here.

But as usual, I refuse to do the humane thing and let this die.