A lot of media coverage about counterfeit drug threats in the U.S. are spurred by the media relations efforts of organizations funded by pharmaceutical companies, such as the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies and Partnership for Safe Medicines. As I see it, their public education efforts conflate safe online sales of medicines imported by consumers in the U.S. with counterfeit drug sales and other forms of drug sales, ones that clearly harm patients. One such article that did not fall prey to the propaganda was published in Kaiser Health News’ California Healthline detailing street market sales of prescription drugs, including cases that involve counterfeit drugs and the dangers they pose. Journalists who are looking closely, checking the funding of organizations disseminating information about prescription drug importation, can help stop the propaganda of the pharmaceutical industry.
The Kaiser story, written by John M. Glionna, focuses on
Latino immigrant communities in which people can’t afford medication or, due to
their immigration status, are fearful of deportation if they go to federally-funded
clinics for medical treatments. Eight people were arrested and charged with
illegal street sales of prescription drugs, including injectables and
controlled drugs. Glionna describes the LA County authorities report:
I’m proud to share that PharmacyChecker has published a white paper that
examines prices and availability of newly approved generic drugs. Our report,
based on 40 generic medications that were approved from 2017-2018, clearly
shows that generic drug approvals often don’t lead to greater affordability or
even access here in the U.S. We were inspired to examine pricing in addition to
availability after seeing availability research conducted by Kaiser Health News (KHN).
The KHN article concluded that the lack to generic availability in the U.S. “means
thousands or even millions of patients have no option beyond buying branded
drugs that can cost thousands of dollars per month.” As an option for those who
cannot afford that, PharmacyChecker found that 25% of the generic medications
were available online, internationally through pharmacies that are accredited
in the PharmacyChecker Verification Program.
Out of 40 generic medications that
were approved from 2017 to 2018, PharmacyChecker research found the following:
Something unexpected happened at a dog and pony show staged at the National Press Club on April 4, where the Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) gave its campaign against prescription drug importation and international online pharmacies the imprimatur of technocratic expertise. Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew Von Eschenbach, in opposing importation as unsafe, and “frightening” said that 29 countries have regulatory systems for drug safety comparable to the U.S. Was that a mistake? No. We need to get that list of 29 countries and create standards for distribution and refine guidance for consumers to help more Americans import lower cost medications from those countries.
I derived the number 29 because Dr. Eschenbach said: “of the 96 countries around the world that can supply drugs only 30% have a functional regulatory infrastructure that’s comparable to the one that we have at the Food and Drug Administration.” Simple math showed 30% of 96 is 28.8. I rounded to 29!
Granted, Dr. Eschenbach would say that I was taking his words out of context. (more…)