June 21, 2019
The current lawsuits involving opioid manufacture, promotion and distribution bring to mind other drug company issues addressed in an article in Time magazine by Katherine Eban.
Ninety percent of the prescriptions filled in the U.S. are generic drugs, 80% of their active ingredients come from outside the country, and most insurance companies insist on generic drugs for in-plan payment. Over the years, we have praised generic drug manufacturers for helping to control medical costs but they have a deep, dark secret: drug manufacturers vary their standards based on the country buying their products.
Most people assume that a drug is a drug, brand name or generic, so long as it’s made by a reputable company and approved by the FDA. That has driven companies in China and India to produce drugs for use around the world, allowing the poor access to the same treatment as the wealthy. The fact is, these companies send their highest-quality drugs to those countries where regulation is the most stringent and a lower-quality to those with the weakest review process.
Versions of generic blood pressure medication and others have been recalled because testing exposed the presence of a possible carcinogen, once used as an ingredient in rocket fuel.
Primarily in Africa, low-potency drugs have forced doctors to alter the dosing in order to obtain satisfactory results or change regimen completely.
If Congress should allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, we must not skimp on quality. Eban says, “Subpar medicine and growing drug resistance is impossible to ignore.”