As if keeping up with what is a brand name versus what is a generic medication wasn’t enough, now you can’t even be certain whether what you’re handed by your local pharmacy is even the real deal anyway. Pretty scary stuff.
So the question is while we all are paying the highest prices in decades for our medication how does this happen? The industry and FDA indicate these are high quality fakes. Sorry, not good enough and I don’t buy it. Frankly, that is taking the easy way out. Consumers deserve better. The facts are in the ever expanding effort to lower costs; the pharmaceutical companies and the retail pharmacies, like so many industries, have defaulted to price and profit over quality and safety. Come on, I don’t care how good these pills look shouldn’t these big companies know and investigate who they are buying from? My late father, a very wise man, used to love to use the phrase “too good to be true”. One wonders if a new supplier comes in to the pharmaceutical market, with seemingly impossibly low prices, who is doing the testing of the product and the background check when the bells should be going off? I guess certain folks simply don’t want the answer to some obvious questions. According to the US News and World Report it is left to consumers like Arthur Soclof, an allergist in Livonia Michigan, who on his own discovered his cholesterol medication, Lipitor, sold to him by his local pharmacy, was a fake.
Amazingly it is these same pharmaceutical companies and retail pharmacies that try and put the entire onus on the consumer to know the plethora of possible side effects and complications of medications. However it doesn’t stop there, now the consumer is supposed to be the one to make sure their trained and licensed pharmacist filled their prescription right too?
Katherine Eban, investigative reporter and author of “Dangerous Doses: How Counterfeiters are Contaminating America’s Drug Supply” , does a good job of highlighting the serious dangers posed to all of us. One such story relates to Timothy Fagan then a 16 yr old boy in Long Island New York who survived a difficult liver transplant and was depending on a drug called Epogen to boost his red cells to battle his post surgical anemia. Amazingly, he was given counterfeit medication that nearly cost him his life. Even more recently we have witnessed the Heparin in the market place that has been tainted and has cost lives needlessly.
It seems unbelievable this can still be happening. Frankly, medications are one area that consumers are forced to trust and rely on the government and corporations in the private market place to deliver us safe and non-counterfeit products. The government places the responsibility on the manufacturers; which would be fine if all corporations put the safety of the consumer first. These companies advertise and promise we can trust them and that is what we are paying them handsomely for. I think we can all live with an occasional latte too cold or tolerate a pickle on a burger we asked them to hold at the drive thru window. However, when it comes to our medications we are entrusting these companies with our very lives. For those of us who have worked in a leadership role and have tried to foster a culture and environment of “quality first” and are intimately familiar with the term “zero defects” this critical arena is precisely what that concept was intended for. Like many of you, neither I nor my family, has the training, experience, or time to adequately investigate or test the medications the hospital or my local pharmacy are selling and delivering to me.