GSK whistleblower details Cidra plant woes

The woman who raised the red flag on GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) troubled Cidra, Puerto Rico, plant has now spoken to 60 Minutes. Cheryl Eckard, whose whistleblower suit yielded last year's $750 million settlement and a guilty plea for one of GSK's subsidiaries, gave the news program a behind-the-scenes look at the problems she observed at the plant and the company's reaction to her criticism.

Eckard was a quality control inspector for the company when she found trouble at Cidra in 2002. According to the CBS News coverage, Eckard found a host of mess-ups there. "All the systems were broken, the facility was broken, the equipment was broken, the processes were broken. It was the worst thing I had run across in my career," she told 60 Minutes. Tainted water was used in manufacturing, production lines were turning out too-potent or not-potent-enough drugs, employees were contaminating products and different medications were packed into the same bottles, she now says.

According to Eckard, she informed GSK's North American VP of quality and told him to shut down the plant, stop the shipments leaving the loading dock that day and notify the FDA. But none of that happened, she says. When she alerted higher-ups to a later mix-up, the company denied it ever happened, she says.

The VP Eckard spoke with is no longer with GSK, and the Cidra plant has long been closed and company leadership changed over since then. Indeed, SVP Ian McCubbin told CBS that the company has "worked really really hard to resolve those issues." GSK regrets the plant's problems, he said, "[b]ut we've learned from it."

- get the 60 Minutes story