Bitter Pills

  • by: |
  • 01/02/2007
Excellent "special report" on counterfeit prescription medicines in the December 18, 2006 edition of BusinessWeek.

Here's the link:

Two snippets to whet your appetite for more ...

First, as to the scope of the problem:

* Based on a study of 185 sites, Columbia University's National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse reports that only 11% of Internet pharmacies require customers to provide a prescription. All the rest, an astounding 89%, appear to operate illegally. Conservative estimates of the number of dubious sites reach into the tens of thousands, according to Internet Crimes Group Inc., a corporate consulting firm.

And second, to those politicians and pundits who claim that counterfeiting is nothing but a Big Pharma "scare tactic," a cautionary tale:

* Craig Schmidt fell victim to questionable Internet medicine in April, 2004. The Chicago plastics salesman, then 30, was feeling the stress and back pain of long workweeks often spent on the road. Checking his e-mail one day, he noticed ads for Xanax and the painkiller Ultram. He placed $400 in orders without ever speaking to a doctor. When the pills arrived, he took one tablet of each drug and headed for an errand at the hardware store. The next thing he remembers is waking up three weeks later in the hospital. It turned out that each Xanax tablet contained 2 mg of the drug, or quadruple the usual starting dosage. The combination apparently caused him to black out and wreck his car. He had a heart attack, fell into a coma, and suffered brain damage. After an extraordinary recovery, he still takes medication to prevent severe leg spasms. "Don't do what I did," he says. "It's like playing Russian roulette."

BusinessWeek also ordered some "product" from selected websites. The Xanax the investigative team ordered had zero active ingredient, as did the Lipitor it purchased.

Well say it again -- counterfeiting of prescription medicines is nothing short of international prescription drug terrorism.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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