Pharmaceutical Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Pharmaceutical Corruption News Articles in Media
In a rare move, the Justice Department on Tuesday announced that it had charged a former vice president and top lawyer for the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline with making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation into illegal marketing of the antidepressant Wellbutrin for weight loss. â€śThis is absolutely precedent-setting â€” this is really going to set peopleâ€™s hair on fire,â€ť said Douglas B. Farquhar, a Washington lawyer. â€śThis is indicative of the F.D.A. and Justice strategy to go after the very top-ranking managing officials at regulated companies.â€ť The indictment accuses the Glaxo official, Lauren C. Stevens of Durham, N.C., of lying to the Food and Drug Administration in 2003, by writing letters, as associate general counsel, denying that doctors speaking at company events had promoted Wellbutrin for uses not approved by the agency. Ms. Stevens â€śmade false statements and withheld documents she recognized as incriminating,â€ť including slides the F.D.A. had sought during its investigation, the indictment stated. The company was cooperating fully with a federal investigation into allegations of illegal sales and marketing of Wellbutrin. Last year, it set aside $400 million to resolve the case, which is still pending. Two weeks ago, in an unrelated case, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay $750 million to the government to settle civil and criminal complaints that it sold tainted or ineffective products from a large manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico.
Note: Even with fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars assessed to many of the large pharmaceuticals, why isn't more being done? See what one of the top doctors in the US revealed about corruption in health care at this link.
GlaxoSmithKline, the British drug giant, has agreed to pay $750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints that the company for years knowingly sold contaminated baby ointment and an ineffective antidepressant â€” the latest in a growing number of whistle-blower lawsuits that drug makers have settled with multimillion-dollar fines. Altogether, GlaxoSmithKline sold 20 drugs with questionable safety that were made at a huge plant in Puerto Rico that for years was rife with contamination. Cheryl D. Eckard, the companyâ€™s quality manager, asserted in her whistle-blower suit that she had warned Glaxo of the problems but the company fired her instead of addressing them. Among the drugs affected were Paxil, an antidepressant; Bactroban, an ointment; Avandia, a troubled diabetes drug; Coreg, a heart drug; and Tagamet, an acid reflux drug. Justice Department officials announced the settlement in a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Boston, saying a $150 million payment to settle criminal charges was the largest such payment ever by a manufacturer of adulterated drugs. The outcome also provides $600 million in civil penalties. The share to the whistle-blower will be $96 million, one of the highest such awards in a health care fraud case.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on corporate corruption and criminality, click here.
Doctors and patients are being misled about the effectiveness of some drugs because negative trial results are not published, experts have warned. Writing in the British Medical Journal, they say that pharmaceutical companies should be forced to publish all data, not just positive findings. The German team give the example of the antidepressant reboxetine, saying publications have failed to show the drug in a true light. Reboxetine (Edronax), made by Pfizer, is used in many European countries, including the UK. But its rejection by US drug regulators raised doubts about its effectiveness, and led some to hunt for missing data. This is not the first time a large drug company has come under fire about its published drug trial data. Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was criticised for failing to raise the alarm on the risk of suicidal behaviour associated with its antidepressant Seroxat. GSK has also been forced to defend itself over allegations about hiding negative data regarding another of its drugs, Avandia, which is used to treat diabetes. "Our findings underline the urgent need for mandatory publication of trial data," [the researchers] say in the BMJ. They warn that the lack of all information means policy makers are unable to make informed decisions. In the US, it is already a requirement that all data - both positive and negative - is published.
Note: For a powerful summary of government/corporate corruption in the pharmaceutical industry by a respected former editor of a major medical journal, click here.
AstraZeneca has completed a deal to pay $520 million to settle federal investigations into marketing practices for its blockbuster schizophrenia drug, Seroquel. AstraZeneca becomes the fourth pharmaceutical giant in the last three years to admit to federal charges of illegal marketing of antipsychotic drugs, a lucrative category of medications that have quickly risen to the top of United States sales charts. Aggressive sales and promotional practices have helped expand the use of powerful new antipsychotic drugs for children and the elderly. The company, based in London, has been accused of misleading doctors and patients by playing up favorable research and not adequately disclosing studies that show Seroquel increases the risk of diabetes. AstraZeneca still faces more than 25,000 civil lawsuits filed on behalf of patients contending that the company did not disclose the drugďż˝s risks. As a result of aggressive marketing, Seroquel has been increasingly used for children and elderly people for indications not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The drugs have caused rapid weight gain in children, and side effects including deaths have prompted warnings against giving the drugs to elderly patients for dementia.
Note: For more on corporate corruption, click here.
A federal jury has awarded $1.37 million in damages to a former Pfizer scientist who claimed she was sickened by a genetically engineered virus at a company laboratory and then fired for raising safety concerns. The case ... has raised questions about the safety of workers in the biotechnology industry and about regulations to protect them. The jury ruled that Pfizer had violated laws protecting free speech and whistle-blowers by retaliating against Ms. McClain. The case has attracted the attention of some worker advocates, who say it shows the risks workers in biological labs encounter and the lack of rules to protect them. Ms. McClain, for example, claimed she encountered many difficulties in her attempts to learn the genetic content of the virus she suspected had infected her because it was protected as a trade secret. [She] had complained about what she saw as safety problems, including desks next to where biological experiments were done. Jeremy Gruber, president of the Council for Responsible Genetics, an advocacy group urging discussion of the ethical implications of biotechnology, applauded the award. ďż˝I personally believe that Becky McClain is really the canary in the coal mine,ďż˝ he said. Regulations ďż˝have not kept pace with the explosion of research.ďż˝
Note: Why are they creating genetically engineered viruses that can sicken people? Could there be some credence to those who claim the AIDS virus was manufactured?
Imagine being charged with a crime, but an imaginary friend takes the rap for you. That is essentially what happened when Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, was caught illegally marketing Bextra, a painkiller that was taken off the market in 2005 because of safety concerns. It's a story about the power major pharmaceutical companies have even when they break the laws intended to protect patients. The story begins in 2001, when Bextra was about to hit the market. The drug was part of a revolutionary class of painkillers known as Cox-2 inhibitors that were supposed to be safer than generic drugs, but at 20 times the price of ibuprofen. Pfizer and its marketing partner, Pharmacia, planned to sell Bextra as a treatment for acute pain, the kind you have after surgery. But in November 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Bextra was not safe for patients at high risk of heart attacks and strokes. The FDA approved Bextra only for arthritis and menstrual cramps. It rejected the drug in higher doses for acute, surgical pain. Promoting drugs for unapproved uses can put patients at risk by circumventing the FDA's judgment over which products are safe and effective. For that reason, "off-label" promotion is against the law. Internal company documents show that Pfizer and Pharmacia (which Pfizer later bought) used a multimillion-dollar medical education budget to pay hundreds of doctors as speakers and consultants to tout Bextra.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on corporate corruption, click here.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Pfizer, Incorporated, with 116,000 employees and revenues of $50 billion a year, is the world's largest pharmaceutical company. The government was building a case against Pfizer for fraudulently marketing a drug that had raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, a painkiller called Bextra. Pfizer aggressively marketed it for uses and in doses not approved by the FDA. But our investigation found another story, ... about the power major pharmaceutical companies have, even when they break the laws intended to protect patients. In 2001, ... the FDA approved Bextra, but only for limited use and only for menstrual cramps and arthritis. Even so, Pfizer sales reps promoted it, illegally, for surgical pain in higher doses, uses the FDA had rejected due to safety concerns. Doctors responded. Instead of prescribing, say, ibuprofen at pennies a pill, they prescribed Bextra at nearly $3 a pill for all kinds of unapproved uses. Sales were very good. GLENN DEMOTT, FORMER PFIZER SALES REP: They said that the district manager approved it. They think it might not be legal, but if they don't make their numbers, they're not going to keep their job anyway. GRIFFIN : It brought Pfizer nearly $1 billion in profits. And it cost us all, because Medicare, Medicaid, and our private insurance picked up much of the tab. MICHAEL LOUCKS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: If the company is able to push the product for the unapproved indication, then it makes a mockery, if you will, of the FDA approval process.
Note: For an even deeper analysis on Mercola.com titled "Pulling Back the Curtain on the Organized Crime Ring That Is the Pharmaceutical Drug Cartel," click here. You can also watch a video of the above CNN segment at that link. For more on pharmaceutical industry corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The massive U.S. Senate healthcare reform measure passed ... with support from the multibillion drug industry, but makers of cheaper generic rivals are feeling left out in the cold. Generic drugmakers face several obstacles in the bill backed by Democrats that they worry will dampen a potential increase in use even as more people gain access to health insurance and prescription medicines. The hurdles include extensive protections against generic versions of pricey biotech medicines, an incentive for Medicare recipients to use more brand-name drugs, and a possible end to payments from brandname makers to delay the launch of copy-cat medicines. "The bill passed by the Senate unfortunately amounts to a treasure trove to brand drug companies," said Generic Pharmaceutical Association President Kathleen Jaeger. Bill Marth, chief executive of Teva's North American operations, said Democrats missed a chance to further boost [generics] use: "It's frustrating," he said. "Maybe some people have just lost sight of what the bill is supposed to do."
Note: For a powerful analysis by Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, of the corrupt relationship between the biggest pharmaceutical companies and the federal government, click here. Drug company lobbyists who contribute millions of dollars to the elections campaigns of Congress members have a huge influence which is often detrimental to public health.
Swiss drugmaker Novartis said sales would grow faster than expected this year, even without a shot in the arm of up to $700 million from its H1N1 swine flu pandemic vaccine. Third-quarter net profit at Novartis ... nudged up 1 percent to $2.1 billion. This year is turning out to be better than initially feared for Novartis and other major pharmaceutical companies, thanks to hefty price increases and windfall sales arising from the H1N1 outbreak. Both Pfizer, the world's biggest drugmaker, and Eli Lilly topped earnings forecasts this week. Roche reported a sharp jump in sales of its Tamiflu drug for flu last week and analysts expect GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza will also see strong sales in the third quarter. On the vaccine front, Glaxo, Sanofi-Aventis and AstraZeneca are all expected to highlight an expected jump in fourth-quarter sales due to swine flu. The H1N1 flu vaccine is expected to contribute about $400-700 million of sales in the fourth quarter.
Note: Donald Rumsfeld personally made millions as a direct result of the avian flu scare a few year ago. For more on this, click here. For more on pharmaceutical corporation profiteering from swine flu vaccines, click here.
Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline was accused of cashing in on swine flu after it revealed its profits have risen 10 per cent since the virus was identified. It announced profits yesterday of Ł2.1billion in the past three months. Sales of vaccines and antiviral drugs could push the figure up even higher. GSK chief executive Andrew Witty admitted the swine flu crisis would be a 'significant financial event for the company'. Sales of the company's Relenza inhaler, an alternative to Tamiflu used by pregnant women among others, are expected to top Ł600million. And this figure could be boosted by up to Ł2billion once deliveries of the swine flu vaccine begin in September. But Mr Witty denied Europe's biggest drugs company was gearing up to cash in. He admitted it was planning to charge the UK Ł6 a jab, but vociferously denied reports it cost a pound to manufacture. Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'This is clearly a bonanza for the company. This is a staggeringly substantial return. I will write to the National Audit Office to determine whether we got the best deal for the taxpayer.' Susi Squire of the TaxPayers' Alliance said: 'We need an assurance from the Government that they have got the most competitive rate out of GlaxoSmith-Kline.' Geoff Martin of London Health Emergency said: 'It's a scandal that any company could use the swine flu pandemic as an opportunity to jack up profits. 'The Government should step in and impose a windfall tax on private companies that have hit the jackpot as a result of the flu crisis.'
Note: For more on profiteering in the vaccination industry, click here.
Last month, testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation by a former health insurance insider named Wendell Potter made news even before it occurred: CBS NEWS headlined: "Cigna Whistleblower to Testify." After Potter's testimony the industry scrambled to do damage control: "Insurers defend rescissions, take heat for lack of transparency." In his first extended television interview since leaving the health insurance industry, Wendell Potter tells Bill Moyers why he left his successful career as the head of Public Relations for CIGNA, one of the nation's largest insurers, and decided to speak out against the industry. Potter began his trip from health care spokesperson to reform advocate while back home in Tennessee. Potter attended a "health care expedition," a makeshift health clinic set up at a fairgrounds, and he tells Bill Moyers, "It was absolutely stunning. When I walked through the fairground gates, I saw hundreds of people lined up, in the rain. It was raining that day. Lined up, waiting to get care, in animal stalls. Animal stalls." Looking back over his long career, Potter sees an industry corrupted by Wall Street expectations and greed. According to Potter, insurers have every incentive to deny coverage — every dollar they don't pay out to a claim is a dollar they can add to their profits, and Wall Street investors demand they pay out less every year. Under these conditions, Potter says, "You don't think about individual people. You think about the numbers, and whether or not you're going to meet Wall Street's expectations."
Note: To educate yourself on this important issue, watch this revealing PBS Bill Moyers segment available here.
For years, the Food and Drug Administration has withheld information about drugs and medical devices from the public when their makers cite trade secrecy — even in cases where the agency suspects that the products are causing serious illness or death. Now the new leadership at the F.D.A. may change that. The Obama administration ... is setting up a task force within the agency to recommend ways to reveal more information about F.D.A. decisions, possibly including the disclosure of now secret data about drugs and devices under study. The goal is to open up a system in which the agency failed to inform the public that a widely prescribed heartburn drug was especially toxic to babies; that a diabetes medicine and a painkiller increased heart attack risks; and that antidepressants increased suicidal thoughts and behavior in children and teenagers. “Many people have been harmed over the last decade because the F.D.A. has treated clinical trial results of drugs and devices as trade secrets,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who has campaigned for the release of such information. In 2007, Dr. Nissen published a study showing that Avandia, a popular diabetes medicine made by GlaxoSmithKline, increased the risk of heart attack by 42 percent. The data Dr. Nissen used was made public because of a lawsuit, but the agency had known of the possible risk for nearly two years. Repeated scandals led the Bush administration in 2005 to promise to make public its product safety investigations more quickly, but it did not recommend changing the laws and regulations that govern the release of trade secrets and agency records.
Note: For a powerful summary of corrupt practices by government and corporations in the pharmaceutical industry, click here.
Pharmaceutical stocks are skyrocketing on fears that a swine flu outbreak could go global. Manufacturers of antiviral drugs [and] companies gearing up to produce a vaccine ... are turning profits in an otherwise skittish and down market. Companies gearing up for swine flu, including Roche, Gilead Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturers of the leading antiviral flu medications, are best positioned to see a boost in profits if the disease escalates to epidemic proportions, analysts said. Tamiflu ... was developed by Gilead and manufactured by Roche. Both companies' share prices spiked soon after the U.S. government allowed for its stockpiles of the drug to be made publicly available. Gilead stock surged to $47.53 at the end of the day Monday, up 3.78 percent. Roche rose to $31.72, up 4.34 percent. The other major flu drug currently on the market is Relenza, also stockpiled and released by the government, and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. Shares of Glaxo closed surged Monday to $31.56, up 7.57 percent. Both Tamiflu and Relenza are stockpiled by governments and in the case of an outbreak the companies are often required to sell the drugs directly to the government at a discount. "Government stockpiling is viewed as boon for profits. Though the government gets a discount and the margins sold to the government are lower than those if they sold to Walgreens, from a stock perspective it's an unexpected positive surprise," he said.
Note: Pharmaceutical companies make big bucks from scares like the avian flu and swine flu. Yet are the recommended drugs really effective? Many studies say they are not. For analysis of profiteering by the pharmaceutical industry during a previous flu scare, click here. See this link for lots more.
Pediatricians, gynecologists and even health insurers all call Gardasil, the first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, a big medical advance. But medical groups, politicians and parents began rebelling after disclosure of a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign by Gardasil's maker, Merck & Co., to get state legislatures to require 11- and 12-year-old girls to get the three-dose vaccine as a requirement for school attendance. Some parents' groups and doctors particularly objected because the vaccine protects against a sexually transmitted disease. Vaccines mandated for school attendance usually are for diseases easily spread through casual contact, such as measles and mumps. Bowing to pressure, Merck said Tuesday that it is immediately suspending its controversial campaign, which it had funded through a third party. Legislatures in roughly 20 states have introduced measures that would mandate girls have the vaccine to attend school. Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Feb. 2 issued an executive order requiring Texas girls entering the sixth grade as of 2008 get the vaccinations. Dr. Anne Francis, who chairs an American Academy of Pediatrics committee [stated] "I believe that their timing was a little bit premature," she said, "so soon after (Gardasil's) release, before we have a picture of whether there are going to be any untoward side effects." The country has been "burned" by some drugs whose serious side effects emerged only after they were in wide use, including Merck's withdrawn painkiller Vioxx. The vaccine also is controversial because of its price - $360 for the three doses required.
Note: $360 for every girl in school would amount to quite a hefty transfer of funds from taxpayers into the pockets of Merck. Could profit and campaign contributions be behind the move to make this mandatory?
Two UK-based academics have devised a way to invent new medicines and get them to market at a fraction of the cost charged by big drug companies. Sunil Shaunak, professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College ... calls their revolutionary new model "ethical pharmaceuticals". Improvements they devise to the molecular structure of an existing, expensive drug turn it technically into a new medicine which is no longer under a 20-year patent to a multinational drug company and can be made and sold cheaply. The process has the potential to undermine the monopoly of the big drug companies and bring cheaper drugs not only to poor countries but back to the UK. Professor Shaunak and his colleague from the London School of Pharmacy, Steve Brocchini, have linked up with an Indian biotech company which will manufacture the first drug - for hepatitis C. Hepatitis C affects 170 million people worldwide and at least 200,000 in the UK. Multinational drug companies put the cost of the research and development of a new drug at $800m (Ł408m). Professors Shaunak and Brocchini say the cost of theirs will be only a few million pounds. Professor Shaunak says it is time that the monopoly on drug invention and production by multinational corporations - which charge high prices because they need to make big profits for their shareholders - was broken. The team's work on the hepatitis C drug has impeccable establishment credentials. But the professors' ethical pharmaceutical model is unlikely to find much favour with the multinational pharmaceutical companies, which already employ large teams of lawyers to defend the patents which they describe as the lifeblood of the industry.
Note: This is very exciting news, but we'll see what happens when the hugely profitable pharmaceutical industry presses its might against this effort. For more, click here.
A division of the pharmaceutical company Bayer sold millions of dollars of blood-clotting medicine for hemophiliacs -- medicine that carried a high risk of transmitting AIDS -- to Asia and Latin America in the mid-1980's while selling a new, safer product in the West. The Bayer unit, Cutter Biological, introduced its safer medicine in late February 1984 as evidence mounted that the earlier version was infecting hemophiliacs with H.I.V. Yet for over a year, the company continued to sell the old medicine overseas. Cutter officials were trying to avoid being stuck with large stores of a product. Yet even after it began selling the new product, the company kept making the old medicine for several months more. In Hong Kong and Taiwan alone, more than 100 hemophiliacs got H.I.V. after using Cutter's old medicine. Many have since died. Cutter also continued to sell the older product after February 1984 in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and Argentina. While admitting no wrongdoing, Bayer and three other companies that made the concentrate have paid hemophiliacs about $600 million to settle more than 15 years of lawsuits accusing them of making a dangerous product. Federal regulators helped keep the overseas sales out of the public eye. The Food and Drug Administration's regulator of blood products, Dr. Harry M. Meyer Jr....asked that the issue be "quietly solved without alerting the Congress, the medical community and the public."
The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a settlement in the largest health care fraud case in U.S. history. The ruling, which included accusations of false advertising, forced the once widely respected British drugmaker, GlaxoSmithKline ... to pay a record-shattering $3 billion to various plaintiffs and the Department of Justice. Despite this $3 billion settlement, advertising fraud is on the rise in the United States. Expert public relations teams are called in to spin stories and confuse consumers. It is clear there is not enough being done to prevent, stop or resolve matters of false advertising in this country. The effect of the GlaxoSmithKline case has yet to be fully seen. If GlaxoSmithKline is [creative and deceptive] then we might see it roll out ads that skew the $3 billion loss in its favor - blatantly distorting the ruling as an endorsement of its products. At this point, even as regulators secure record-breaking settlements, the American people are losing, and the corporate spin teams are winning, the fight. Record settlements mean little if the deception continues. While winning lawsuits is a first step, what really matters is changing corporate behavior.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on corporate corruption, click here.
Propelled by an increase in prescription narcotic overdoses, drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States, a Times analysis of government data has found. Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety. Public health experts have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation's growing prescription drug problem, which they characterize as an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979. Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol. Such drugs now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on important health issues, click here.
Last year, Stanford banned its physicians from giving paid promotional talks for pharmaceutical companies. One thing it didn't do was make sure its faculty followed that rule. A ProPublica investigation ["Dollars for Docs"] found that more than a dozen of the school's doctors were paid speakers in apparent violation of Stanford policy - two of them were paid six figures since last year. Conflict-of-interest policies have become increasingly important as academic medical centers worry that promotional talks undermine the credibility not only of the physicians giving them, but also of the institutions they represent. Yet when it comes to enforcing the policies, universities have allowed permissive interpretations and relied on the honor system. That approach isn't working. Many physicians are in apparent violation, and ignorance or confusion about the rules is widespread. As a result, some faculty physicians stay on the industry lecture circuit, where they can net tens of thousands of dollars in additional income. Critics of the practice say delivering talks for drug companies is incompatible with teaching future generations of physicians. That's because drug firms typically pick the topic of the lecture, train the speakers and require them to use company-provided presentation slides.
Note: "Dollars for Docs" is an ongoing investigation into the influence of drug company marketing payments on medical providers. To search for a doctor in the database, click here.
Many drug trials involve a placebo, a sham drug whose results are compared with the results of the real medication. A placebo is supposed to contain a harmless substance, such as sugar or vegetable oil, which has no significant effect on the body. In [a new] study, researchers delved into 176 studies published in reputable medical journals ... from January 2008 to December 2009 to see if placebo contents were disclosed and if so, what they were. The study authors argue that placebo ingredients may not always be as inconsequential as some may think. They write: "For instance, olive oil and corn oil have been used as the placebo in trials of cholesterol-lowering drugs. This may lead to an understatement of drug benefit: The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids of these 'placebos,' and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, can reduce lipid levels and heart disease." Certain placebos, they add, may skew results in favor of the active drug. The researchers referenced a trial for a drug used to treat anorexia linked with cancer in which a lactose placebo was used. Since lactose intolerance is common among cancer patients, the fact that some suffered stomach problems from the placebo may have made the actual drug look more beneficial. "Perfect placebo is not the aim," they write, "rather, we seek to ensure that its composition is disclosed."
Note: For key reports from major media sources on important issues related to health and medicine, click here.
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