AP answers your questions on the news, from prescription drugs to the AP in Iraq, Afghanistan

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ask AP: Prescription drug origins, AP bureaus

So much of what Americans buy and use is made outside the nation’s borders. Is that true for the prescriptions you pick up from the drugstore?

One person’s curiosity about how to determine the origins of prescription drugs inspired one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions@ap.org, with “Ask AP” in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

You can also tweet your questions to AP, using the AskAP hashtag.

Ask AP can also be found on AP Mobile, a multimedia news service available on Internet-enabled cell phones. Go to www.apnews.com/ to learn more.

Does the AP have news bureaus in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? If so, how many reporters?

Tracy Burris

Bellevue, Wash.

The AP maintains significant bureaus in all three places. They cover some of the most important and dangerous news in the world, in print, photos and video, and the AP has committed large sums to provide the most immediate and comprehensive news possible from these hotspots while striving always to keep our staffs there safe.

We avoid giving exact numbers of our personnel in different locations for strategic and security reasons, but in each of these three countries we have a core of permanent international staffers working alongside trained, knowledgeable and well-connected local journalists.

The Kabul bureau is now led by veteran AP Bureau Chief Robert H. Reid, who used to head the Baghdad bureau. Reid functions as news director for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The AP is the only major news organization to maintain a large contingent of multi-format journalists in Afghanistan without interruption since the Afghan war started in 2001. We covered the conflict at a time when many organizations were focused only on Iraq.

AP was present in Iraq before the start of the war in 2003 but has expanded dramatically since then. Our bureau was inside the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad until 2006. We moved to a different location after a deadly car bomb attack there at the end of 2005. We since have moved again. Often people ask, “Are you in the Green Zone?” The answer is no, we are in a normal part of Baghdad on a secure street. The bureau is currently led by AP Baghdad Bureau Chief Rebecca Santana.

In Islamabad, which has been a major news hub for the AP for decades, Bureau Chief Chris Brummitt heads the bureau and also oversees AP correspondents in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. Former AP Bureau Chief Kathy Gannon, who has been covering both Pakistan and Afghanistan since the 1980s, lives in Islamabad and travels back and forth between both countries frequently. She produces a regular string of AP “beats” based on sources built up over the years.

Staffers such as Ahmad Sami in Iraq, Amir Shah in Afghanistan and Munir Ahmed in Pakistan are able to describe their countries’ inner workings with accuracy and insight.

In addition to the news about war and conflict, AP routinely covers government actions, social issues, culture, education and even sports. We pride ourselves on being first with accurate dispatches on breaking news, and on painting a well-rounded and objective portrait of life and humanity in each of these countries.

John Daniszewski

AP Senior Managing Editor

New York

How can I find out if prescribed medications are made in the USA? I understand that most generics are made in China or India. That piqued my curiosity about where non-generic drugs are manufactured. We know who distributes them but not where they are made. Has “outsourcing” put the health of our citizens at risk?

M.S. Isenogle

Kenner, La.

Consumers would be hard pressed to find a “Made In” label on any finished pharmaceutical product. A prescription drug, whether generic or branded, is made of multiple ingredients, each of which may come from a facility in a separate nation. Therefore, simply listing the final production location would be misleading.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration keeps information on the origin of prescription drugs and products often have lot numbers that can be used by the agency and the company for tracking purposes. This is especially important in cases of product recalls.

Both generic and brand-name drugs often are manufactured abroad. Regardless of where they are made, facilities that make drugs for the U.S. market must meet the FDA’s manufacturing requirements. The agency has the authority to inspect facilities making products for use in the U.S., regardless of whether they’re in New Jersey or China.

About $2 trillion worth of pharmaceutical products enter the United States each year from more than 150 countries and territories around the world, according to the FDA. The sheer volume of foreign-made products and valid safety concerns has prompted the FDA to increase inspections of both foreign and domestic facilities.

Damian Troise

AP Health Care Writer

New York

Has there always been a rebuttal following a presidential State of the Union address? If not, when did this start?

Joyce Gieszler

Hillsboro, Ore.

The first known organized response to the State of the Union occurred in 1966, according to the Web site of the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The three major television networks at the time — ABC, CBS and NBC — provided a 30-minute time slot for the Republicans to respond to then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat. Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) and Rep. Gerald R. Ford (R-Mich.) delivered the GOP rebuttal.

The previous year, Johnson had moved the speech from its traditional noon starting time to prime time and pulled in an estimated audience of 30 million or more.

In most years since then, there has been a State of the Union speech and a rebuttal.

Rhonda Shafner

AP News Researcher

New York

Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions@ap.org.

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