retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Los Angeles Times reports that into the cauldron of debate about the reimportation of low-cost prescription medicines from Canada comes a different sort of pharmaceutical problem - counterfeit drugs, which is an issue the extent of which authorities say they cannot estimate, and that is causing countless human suffering and financial harm

The paper cites numerous cases in which the treatment of seriously ill individuals has been compromised either by counterfeit medicines in which high-dose medicines have been surreptitiously replaced with low-doses, or in which medicines have been replaced by a fake.

"The Food and Drug Administration insists that the country's pharmaceutical drug supply is the safest in the world," the LAT writes, "But a growing number of counterfeit drug seizures and arrests has raised new worries that consumers can't be so sure the pharmaceutical medicines they buy are safe or even genuine." These aren't drugs off the street, but those acquired from major drug store chains, which got them - they thought - from major pharmaceutical companies. The legal and financial implications for these companies are enormous.

Among the anti-counterfeiting measure being considered:

    • "Pedigree laws" that would require written documentation every time a drug changes hands.

    • Tamper-proof packaging, special watermarks and holograms that are difficult for criminals to duplicate.

    • Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, which would track products as they move through the distribution system.
KC's View:
We would hate it if authorities, under pressure from major drug companies, used the very real counterfeit drug problem as an excuse not to deal with the issue of prescription drugs being so much less expensive in Canada. There would seem to be both systemic and philosophical problems that have to be worked out here - but reimportation strikes us as a very different issue than counterfeiting.