Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2002
Aspirin Can't Cure Bayer's Aches
LEVERKUSEN, Germany -- Aspirin made Bayer famous more than a century ago, and its Cipro remedy against anthrax cast it in the limelight again last year, but pharmaceuticals caused the German conglomerate's worst annual performance in a decade.
Bayer was forced to pull Lipobay, marketed in the United States as Baycol, when it was linked to muscle deterioration and the deaths of at least 100 users. The company faces a bevy of lawsuits and is effectively shut out of the lucrative cholesterol treatment market. The Baycol withdrawal alone depressed sales by more than $600 million last year--the amount the company lost in net sales across the board. (...).
Although Bayer's economic problems are daunting, the company's troubles don't stop at the bottom line. As an active manufacturer in Third World countries with little or no environmental protections, Bayer has amassed a global network of critics, including Ralph Nader and the vocal watchdog agency in neighboring Cologne, the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers.
"Few companies in the world have developed such a bad reputation as Bayer, yet they seem oblivious to criticism or public pressure. Their usual reaction is to sue their accusers rather than address the problems," said the coalition's spokesman, Phillip Mimkes.
He recalls that Bayer was one of the last German companies to be pressed into contributing to a $5-billion industry-government fund to compensate World War II-era slave laborers, although the company was an eager beneficiary of conscripted workers.
Nader's Multinational Monitor in January ranked Bayer one of the world's 10 worst companies, based on its environmental and trade policies, an accusation Reinert described as frivolous and unfounded.
By CAROL J. WILLIAMS, TIMES STAFF WRITER