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 www.cmpi.org as a download. If you would like a hard copy, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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.”