Fabulously Fatal Fakes
Tonight’s Dateline re-aired a feature called the “Bitter Pill” that discussed the problem of counterfeit prescription drugs. The problem of counterfeit drugs is a growing worldwide concern. It is well known that the counterfeit products enter the chain of distribution at varying points between the manufacturer and the pharmacy, with millions of dollars exchanging hands. Of course a disturbing revelation was the even the “experts,” including pharmacists were often unable to identify a real or counterfeit pill without chemical analysis.
In one respect, if you missed the show, you should read the entire article. However, I wonder about this “investigative undercover report” since the problem of counterfeit pharmaceutical products is not a new one. Even the Food and Drug Administration recognized the problem back in 2003 and created its on-going Counterfeit Drug Task Force.
The US based Centre for Medicines in the Public Interest predicts that counterfeit drug sales will reach US$ 75 billion globally in 2010, an increase of more than 90% from 2005.
What drugs are involved? The list goes on beyond these, but some of the more popular products include: Lipitor, Viagra, Vaniqa, Crestor, Plavix, Procrit, Epogen, Tamiflu and others.
One of the problems is that the “industry” is still in a state of denial (my opinion). Among the issues discussed in the Dateline show was the new use of RFID chips to identify the counterfeits. This was discussed in a previous post, RFID Myths and Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals. While it is important that large companies like Perdue Pharma and Pfizer are adopting the electronic pedigree, is it really the "best" way to identify counterfeits (is the FDA mandating the use of RFIDs or simply "strongly suggesting" the use of these chips?), or is this a false sense of security when some other forms of RFID have been shown to be compromised?
Getting the word out about the problem of counterfeit pharmaceutical products, as Dateline did, is very important. The question of how to combat the problem however, remains.