The Vitterbug Shuffle

  • by: |
  • 08/03/2006

Lots of news reports today by the MSM (New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) on the Lipitor patent issue. Zero coverage on the news that the governments of Great Britain and Canada have alerted their citizens to another case of counterfeit Lipitor.

Serious? Consider the following statement (as responsibly reported in the Times of London), “Experts are becoming increasingly concerned that criminal networks are exploiting the market in statins, which are taken by millions of people to lower cholesterol.” The Times reports that there are broader concerns about the criminal network linked to the men arrested.

In a plan published last week by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Kent Woods, its chief executive, outlined significant concerns about counterfeit products and internet sales. Describing the “increased threat across the world,” he said that international relationships needed to be developed and “as much disruption as possible created to illegal and unsafe trade.”

To that end, I am posting a copy of “Coincidence of Crisis,” (the new book on how to accomplish precisely that goal — edited by me and published by the Stockholm Network) to Mr. Woods today.

(BTW, if you would like a copy of “Coincidence or Crisis” it is available at as a download. If you would like a hard copy, please e-mail me at

Our friends in the Great White North are also concerned. From Ottawa comes the news that Health Canada is informing Canadians about this same case, reminding their citizens that …

“Counterfeit drugs may contain the incorrect dose, the wrong ingredients, dangerous additives, or no active ingredients at all, which could result in potentially serious health risks to patients. Even if these drugs do not
harm you directly or immediately, your condition may get worse without effective treatment.”

And I’m sure that sounds as frightening in French.

Why is Health Canada so concerned about a UK counterfeits problem? Because it’s an international problem. Because Canadian Internet pharmacies brazenly (and illegally) import drugs from all across Europe.

Oh, sure — these profiteers masquerading as pharmacists will tell you that they only import from the UK — but, because of parallel trade (what we in the US call “re-importation”), upwards of 20% (one-in-five) of all drugs sold in the UK come from other places within the EU like Greece, Portugal, Latvia, Estonia, Malta and Cyprus. And according to the Treaty of Rome, parallel trade is completely legal and Articles 30 and 36 prohibit manufacturers from managing their European supply chains in their own or patients’ interests.

In the EU there is no requirement to record the batch numbers of parallel imported medicines, so if a batch of medicines originally intended for sale in Greece is recalled, tracing where the entire batch has gone (for example, from Athens to London through Canada to Baton Rouge) is impossible.

And speaking of Baton Rouge, this latest trans-Atlantic counterfeits case should serve as a wake-up call to those who don’t think that US Customs has to worry about “Canadian” drugs coming into the US via the mail.

That’s a dangerous dance. Let’s call it “the Vitterbug Shuffle.”


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.

Blog Roll

Alliance for Patient Access Alternative Health Practice
Better Health
Biotech Blog
CA Medicine man
Cafe Pharma
Campaign for Modern Medicines
Carlat Psychiatry Blog
Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry: A Closer Look
Conservative's Forum
Club For Growth
Diabetes Mine
Disruptive Women
Doctors For Patient Care
Dr. Gov
Drug Channels
DTC Perspectives
Envisioning 2.0
FDA Law Blog
Fierce Pharma
Fresh Air Fund
Furious Seasons
Gel Health News
Hands Off My Health
Health Business Blog
Health Care BS
Health Care for All
Healthy Skepticism
Hooked: Ethics, Medicine, and Pharma
Hugh Hewitt
In the Pipeline
In Vivo
Internet Drug News
Jaz'd Healthcare
Jaz'd Pharmaceutical Industry
Jim Edwards' NRx
Kaus Files
Laffer Health Care Report
Little Green Footballs
Med Buzz
Media Research Center
More than Medicine
National Review
Neuroethics & Law
Nurses For Reform
Nurses For Reform Blog
Opinion Journal
Orange Book
Peter Rost
Pharm Aid
Pharma Blog Review
Pharma Blogsphere
Pharma Marketing Blog
Pharmacology Corner
Pharmaceutical Business Review
Piper Report
Prescription for a Cure
Public Plan Facts
Real Clear Politics
Shark Report
Shearlings Got Plowed
Taking Back America
Terra Sigillata
The Cycle
The Catalyst
The Lonely Conservative
Town Hall
Washington Monthly
World of DTC Marketing
WSJ Health Blog