… you probably think they don’t affect you, because you only pick up your prescriptions at the local pharmacy, or get samples from your doctor….
But you would be wrong. Counterfeit drugs may be found in your own medicine cabinet — and you have no way of knowing they are counterfeit.
Surprised? I was too — and because I too often have to be so cynical in my work — I never should have been so surprised. Why? Because so much of healthcare is about money. And counterfeiting is all about money — making it for the perpetrators, and saving it for those who have to pay, whether that’s a pharmacy or a health insurer. And who’s money and lives is it costing? Ours, because we are the patients.
I had heard of counterfeit drugs — but like so many, I pretty much dismissed any negative effect on my life. But it turns out that hundreds of thousands of us have taken them without knowing it, and across the globe, thousands of people have died. Yes. Died.
Drugs become counterfeit in a number of ways. They may be manufactured intentionally to be fake, often in other countries, then imported into the legal American or Canadian drug supplies. We know this happened recently with Heparin — and patients died.
And, too, you may be one of the thousands of patients who have purchased counterfeit Lipitor or been given Procrit after chemo…
Or, they may be adulterated after they were manufactured. Katherine Eban, author of Dangerous Doses, describes this phenomenon in detail, and it’s frightening. In particular, any liquid medicine that will be infused (think chemo) or swallowed can be watered down, or even replaced, then sold back into the drug supply. Unsuspecting patients, plus their doctors and pharmacists, may not know the drug has been watered down. Yes, patients die.
Sometimes they are simply stolen from distributor’s warehouses. Then the problem becomes one of storage. Drugs that are meant to be kept in dark places get stored in sunny locations, or drugs that are meant to be kept cold get stored in hot buildings… and then, of course, they are sold back into the legal drug supply. It’s like keeping raw chicken on a warm kitchen counter for days or weeks or even months. Ugh.
And don’t even get me started on what the FDA is ignoring about all this… or what the legal pharm manufacturers and distributors are doing to make sure their backsides are covered, while patients continue to be harmed and die….
A new website has been put online to help us track the latest in counterfeit drug news, so you may want to take a look and check back on occasion, www.NoToFakes.com. There is general information about counterfeiting of all kinds of products. Pharmaceutical counterfeiting is only a corner of that dark world… but perhaps the most deadly.
- Learn more about counterfeit drugs at About.com.
- Read this interview with Katherine Eban, following up on her book, Dangerous Doses
- Learn some ways to protect yourself from unwittingly being given counterfeit drugs, too.
This kind of topic always makes me wonder what horror anyone can think of next. I’m just not diabolical enough, I guess.