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Protecting Our Supply Chain from Counterfeit Drugs

In the fight against substandard and counterfeit drugs, we can’t forget that these unscrupulous businessmen and counterfeiters don’t just make fake prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, they also counterfeit the raw materials and ingredients used by legitimate manufactures.

Kubic 2 (sm) Thomas T. Kubic

In the fight against substandard and counterfeit drugs, we can’t forget that these unscrupulous businessmen and counterfeiters don’t just make fake prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, they also counterfeit the raw materials and ingredients used by legitimate manufactures.

In fact, 12 people were arrested last week in connection with the tainted My Pikin Baby Teething Mixture that has killed at least 84 children in Nigeria since last November—more than three-quarters of all the children made ill by this tainted teething medicine.  The children, ranging in age from two months to seven years, became ill after using the teething medicine contaminated with diethylene glycol, a cheap industrial solvent and chemical found in antifreeze and brake fluid that criminals represented to be  glycerin—a sweet syrup commonly used in a wide range of medicines, foods and toothpastes.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that counterfeiters have killed unsuspecting consumers by selling diethylene glycol and claiming it was pharmaceutical grade glycerin.  In 2006, 174 Panamanians died after using a cold medication the government unknowingly made with the poisonous chemical.  Incidents such as these displays how rampant and real the threats of contraband, substandard and counterfeit drugs are across the globe.

This is also why the Partnership for Safe Medicines supports increased government oversight at both foreign and domestic manufacturing plants.  Congress recently proposed the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act of 2009 (H.R.759), legislation that calls for strict and increased inspections of foreign facilities that manufacture drug products or components of drug products sold in the United States.  This is an important and significant step.  But, it is also imperative that we continue to advocate for more international cooperation between government agencies, such as the cooperation encouraged by the World Health Organization under their IMPACT initiative, in order to prosecute these unscrupulous counterfeiters who do not hesitate to use foreign, even toxic, materials in their products.

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