Millions of cat and dog owners have been horrified to learn that pet food has been contaminated and could be harming or even killing their companion animals. We now know that wheat gluten, used in a variety of pet foods and dog treats, was tainted with melamine. This chemical is highly toxic to pets, causing kidney damage or death.
Melamine is used in the manufacture of plastic. It is also used as a fertilizer in Asia, but no one knows exactly how it got into the wheat gluten that has caused so much harm. The current belief is that a Chinese supplier of wheat gluten provided a contaminated supply to North American pet food manufacturers.
It may comes as a shock to many people to learn that key ingredients in familiar and trusted pet foods come from sources overseas and may not be inspected as carefully as they should be upon arrival in North America. Unfortunately, there is no good way for the consumer to tell if the pet food on the shelf is safe or not.
People might be even more shocked to learn that this predicament could also apply to the prescription drugs they themselves take. For the past several years, many raw ingredients and even finished pills have been imported from India, China, or other countries. Prices are lower in these places, so the generic drug company saves money on materials. This may even help lower the price of generic medicines in the drugstore. But are there adequate safeguards?
When the FDA approves a new generic medicine, the pill must go through rigorous testing to demonstrate that its active ingredient is identical to that in the brand-name product it mimics. The tests must also show that people absorb the ingredient properly, so that an appropriate amount gets into a patient’s bloodstream. But once this careful approval process is finished, the FDA stops paying close attention. The agency does not routinely monitor the quality of generic drugs–or even brand-name medications. Drug manufacturers are essentially on the honor system.
According to our calculations (based on extensive interviews with FDA honchos), only about one out of 10,000,000 pill bottles is ever actually tested by the agency in the course of a year. This leaves a significant temptation for the unscrupulous.
Since no one is actually enforcing drug quality on the shelves, it is up to consumers to be vigilant. If you go back to our home page (www.peoplespharmacy.com) you will find a box where you can report any problems you may have experienced with generic drugs. We are constantly amazed at how many people find that their generic medicine does not work as well as the brand name they are used to.