Regular readers of the Rantings should understand by now that there is a time and place for medications, just not EVERY time and EVERY place. Many of the articles referred to in the Rantings point out the poor research of many drugs, the sheer lack of research or side effects that create more problems than the condition for which the drug was prescribed. However, even with these concerns applied to many of the most popular medications used in this country, there is a huge factor never taken into account.
Is the drug you THINK you are taking actually the real drug, or is it a fake or low quality version that has made it into your hospital or medicine cabinet?
Quite frankly, up until a few months ago, I was completely unaware that this was even an issue. Then I had a discussion with a patient who had lost her mother to a contaminated dose of heparin given to her in the hospital (the full details of this contamination can be read in an article found by clicking here). In 2007-2008, an estimated 149 people died. And this dose was NOT given in some third world country; it occurred here on US soil. So how did something like this happen?
Apparently, the US has a massive demand for heparin (which, in and of itself, is a problem…). Baxter is the drug company that sells upwards of 50% of the country’s heparin to hospitals and clinics. This demand is so strong that the US manufacturer in Wisconsin that Baxter buys, can’t meet more than half the demand. So the Wisconsin company, in turn, buys heparin from a manufacturer in China. The manufacturer in China has very little in the way of standards ensuring that they are getting high quality raw materials.
If you can follow that chain above, once the product was in the US, it had to pass through multiple quality control audits. And none of these audits picked up the tainted materials in the heparin.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that Botics Research Corporation, a company our office orders from frequently, inspects every batch of raw materials that come in before they put it into their products. Funny how the supplement industry frequently gets beat up over issues of quality control and the drug companies are held up as the example of how things should be done.
All of this background information brings us to this particular article in which the author reviews some nomenclature and concerns about falsified (misrepresents the drugs’ identity or source) and substandard (fails to meet a drugs company’s or a country’s quality standards). Make no mistake about it–this is a massive industry with the profit potential being astronomical, especially in 3rd world countries like parts of Africa.
But don’t think you are protected. As the above experience with heparin demonstrates, we are far from immune to these deceptive practices here in the US.
This added information paints a very scary picture on top of an already problematic health care system in the industrialized world (most notably the US); there are well documented concerns over the efficacy and safety of the drugs we use on a daily basis, and all of this is based on non-falsified and non-substandard drugs. Once you factor these two into the mix, it should be enough to incentivize everyone to make the lifestyle choices needed to avoid or manage chronic diseases.