Not Lost in Translation

  • by: |
  • 07/23/2007
What's on the minds of Turkish journalists covering health care ... counterfeit medicines.

Here's an article that ran in one of that country's largest national daily newspapers, "Dunya"

And, for those of you non-Turkish speakers, here's the translation ...

Counterfeit drugs are a major problem for our country, too

One of the most important factors that play a role in the prevention and treatment of diseases is undoubtedly drugs. When successfully treated, conditions such as hypertension are prevented from leading to strokes or heart attacks and drugs that provide effective treatment for diseases such as cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer’s also play a vital role.

Seen from this perspective, an expeditious introduction of new and effective (innovative) drugs for patients’ use does not increase healthcare costs; on the contrary, it is one of the most important factors that reduce healthcare costs. Countries that do not single out cost as a top criterion and take into consideration the overall benefit that a certain drug provides have a healthier social structure and are also able to control their total healthcare costs more easily. There is a large number of scientific studies that confirm the validity of this approach.

In our country, the cost of treatment is almost always viewed as identical to the cost of the associated drug. The rationale behind this approach is that “drugs” represent the measurable and avoidable aspect of basic healthcare costs. The government presents an approach whereby it directly prevents innovative drugs, which are relatively expensive due to their R&D costs, from being put at the service of society.

As a consequence, the number of saved lives decreases and, due to other healthcare expenditures, total healthcare costs inevitably increase. This governmental approach targets all pharmaceutical companies, local and foreign.

Delays in registration play a role in the rise of counterfeit drugs

The fact that innovative drugs have a higher price tag and are not reimbursed by the government has another important repercussion – the rise in counterfeit drugs. Two recent examples in our country presented a clear proof of this phenomenon. Counterfeit versions of two drugs, one for erectile dysfunction, the other for cancer treatment, were clandestinely released into the market. In his recent visit to Turkey, the former Associate Commissioner for External Relations at the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Mr. Pitts related his experience on counterfeit drugs. At a press meeting he organized at the Head Office of the Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (AIFD), Pitts stated that the expeditious presentation of newly developed and safe drugs at the service of patients has become a priority throughout the whole world and emphasized that, thanks to this approach, patients have increased chances of surviving diseases such as cancer, MS and Alzheimer’s. Pitts pointed out that Turkey’s predominantly young population is a major advantage and that an expeditious introduction of effective drugs at the service of patients without much delay would allow chronic diseases to be treated in a timely manner which would potentially reduce heavier treatment costs down the line.

Buy your drugs only at pharmacies

However, the single most important issue that Pitts emphasized involved counterfeit drugs from China, Russia and South American countries and the damage they cause on human health. Pitts said that as counterfeit drugs provide significant profits, it has become increasingly difficult to fight them and that, in order to avoid counterfeit drugs, individuals must first be wary of environments where counterfeit drugs may be sold and they should not be swayed by the relatively inexpensive prices of these drugs.

Accordingly, it is very important to closely monitor each stage of the distribution channels, to place a barcode and identification on each drug package and to systematically implement as well as increase penal sanctions. Therefore, our most vital suggestions to protect ourselves from counterfeit drugs is to “purchase drugs from pharmacies and refuse to purchase drugs without barcodes”.

Nearly all cases of counterfeit drugs in our country up until now have resulted from drugs outside the official distribution channels. The proper approach that will fundamentally resolve the problem is to shorten the registration process for innovative drugs and expeditiously present them at the service of our citizens.

Ankara's Away!

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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