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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Drugs - They're everywhere but scarce where needed: - Pharmaceuticals and Mixed Media Messages

It seems like drugs are everywhere except where needed most.

We frequently often hear about the violence caused by imported illegal drugs by warring factions in Mexico. Yet, hundreds of legal drugs are purchased across the border by Americans who are looking to buy cheaper medications, even without a prescription.

In the past week, I listened to the Diane Rehms Radio Show discuss the quality assurance issues to be aware of when purchasing pharmaceuticals made outside of USA, because the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has no oversight of the off shore companies in India, China and the Middle East.

"The global trade in counterfeit medicines is an all-time billion-dollar business. So far, it's not been a huge problem here in the U.S., but the FDA this week said fake vials of a widely used anti-cancer drug were found in California, Texas, and Illinois.."

In another Diane Rehms show, the topic addressed the shortage of badly needed life saving drugs to treat cancer and childhood leukemia:

"Critical shortages of medical drugs are becoming so common we’re facing a 'public health crisis' according to some in the industry. So much so it prompted President Obama to issue an executive order aimed at easing the shortages. The concern is mostly over generic drugs given by injection. But within that area, the shortages are becoming acute and widespread. More than 180 drugs have been declared in short supply this year. Many of them are vital for treating childhood leukemia, and breast and colon cancer."

Then, I heard NBC news analyst Dr. Nancy Snyderman give a report on how 180 drugs are on the FDA's shortage list.  "How can this happen?", she asks?  When many drugs go "generic", the drug companies slow down or stop production to create more profitable products. Now, she told viewers, the FDA is looking to import some of these needed but in short supply life saving drugs from India and Australia.  "But the problem will get worse before it gets better," she ends her report.  (I noticed this clip was likely edited from what I saw on the February 21, 2012 Nightly News) 

Regardless of how these drug stories are reported, in all cases the situations are urgent.

It's essential to stop illegal drugs from entering the United States, but the supply of these toxins seems to be in avalanche-like abundance. At the same time, the drugs needed to save people's lives, some 180 legal pharmaceuticals, are at risk for short supply because profit margins are diminished when they are produced as generics.

The mixed message is: drugs to kill yourself with are are available by illegal means whenever you go searching for them. But, on the other hand, start worrying now about how to access legal pharmaceuticals when you or your family member needs a life saving brand.

Pharmaceutical companies have the resources and the marketing abilities to produce drugs and the childhood immunizations people need.  Indeed, those designer drugs, sold on television by couples posing in sexy bathtubs, should generate enough profits to provide for safe anti-cancer, and cardiac drugs and immunization agents.

So, why are we in this situation?  Because Americans buy illegal drugs from Mexico despite the criminal risks associated with this dangerous trade.  Also, we want designer drugs to make us young and beautiful, even if it's at the expense of risking access to life saving drugs for others.

Surely, pharmaceutical companies can have their profits and create life saving drugs if they would reserve a small ratio of their annual margins, perhaps even collectively pooled, precisely for this purpose.  Sooner or later, Americans will be hit with another pandemic scare, in which case, those television ads with people in bathtubs will be the last thing on our minds.

Let's prepare for the needs of our sickest people now so the capacity to produce pharmaceuticals in an emergency will be in place, before we think about creating more "R" rated ads for television.

As for the tragedy of those illegal drugs coming from Mexico, well, there's a solution there as well, if we could just get people to stop buying them.

Regardless of the mixed messages, the one result of drugs being everywhere except where they're needed is the same - sadly, just follow the money.



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