The People's Perspective on Medicine

Dog Food Disaster Casts Doubt on Generic Drugs

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 ( 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.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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We all have to live and purchase according to our conscience. I’m not sure how to draw the lines. Why boycott Iams and not Bayer or Merial or Merck? We can’t have industry regulations enforced without government playing watchdog –& that takes tax $$$. I suggest Coop America as a source of info on company/corporate

thank you, daphne wallace, you are so right.our animals may know more than humans.i put fresh water for my cats and kittens.the kittens were old enough to eat dry cat food.the kittens did not drink the water.i thought well, they don’t know where the water is located, so i will show them and put the water to their mouth, aprox 3 days later,i buried 6 healthy kittens.someone poisoned the water.i would do without before i would allow my animals harmed. i could not watch what happened in my yard 24 hrs aday.

From what you wrote, I don’t see how generics are any more or less unsafe than brand name medications. The FDA doesn’t monitor one any more than the other, and all drug companies seek to reduce costs as much as possible.

How dare we import from China!!! I won’t buy anything made there because they torture animals, by skinning them alive because its cost effective. I am just horrified everytime I hear something else they are guilty of. Remember the faux fur that was found to really have come from the fur of a dog that resembled a racoon, they took the items off the shelf, but the dogs are still dead. Start looking at labels on clothes, hair products, dishes, baskets, you name it check it out. Do you want to buy something from a Country that disrecpects life itself so cheeply? Please don’t. Just think if they had your pet, how would you feel then?

i am on a lot of medicene,s and my ins. will only pay for the gen. and i am on disability so i cannot aford to pay for the name brand ,i know the gen. brand,s do not work as good as the name brand,s some time,s they don,t work at all or tho it seem,s i used to get the name brand,s until they got so expensive, and the ins. will only pay for just a few brand,s . i am just writing because i think this should be changed ,especialy if your life depeand,s on these med,s. i think the ins. should pay for what your doc. say,s you need not make the doc. have to change your med,s to what the ins. will pay for instead of what you realy need. i am sorry to go on like this but i just had to vent some of my feeling,s on this as since they have had to change my med,s my health has suffered ,it seem,s like instead of trying to lead a halfway normal life i am afraid to leave my home incase something should happen in public witch it has a few time,s, so now i just stay homeand if i have an eposode if i can i call my son or daughter ,(we had to get cell phone,s so all i have to do is punce a butten),but they still live an hour away so it is very hard on all of us ,they are allways checking on me to see if i,m ok ,but i can be ok one minute and the next i,m sick, you never know and if the med. doesn,t work why take it? i am sorry for taking up your time but i think something should be done about this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
thank you for your time.

Years ago my pharmacist aunt explained to me that the inert ingredients in drug compounds could have a major influence on the efficacy of the active ingredient — and that generics normally didn’t contain the same inert ingredients as the original compound. That may explain why generic drugs aren’t always as effective.

If you buy Pedegree dog food you won’t have that problem.Many of the cans don’t have wheat gluton in them. all you have to do is look at the ingredients on the can and not buy the ones with the gluten in it.

Regarding the generic question and “are you at risk?” I would answer YES. My parents are both on blood pressure meds and I personally help them pay the extra $$ it costs for the Medicare Part D copay b/c I want them to have the real medications. I also fear the Canadian Pharmacies that aren’t even in Canada but really exist in some unsanitary 3rd world laboratory and only claim to be Canadian. Instead of all the complaining and demanding that the Government “take care of us” why don’t Americans just decide what is more important — the fast food that we eat for 1/2 our lives, the cigarettes we smoke or paying the price for the meds we now need in order to live semi-normal lives? Check out this link if you really want to be scared about the drugs you are buying from “Canadian Internet pharmacies”. Good luck.

Apologies for the typo. Too much C can throw off copper levels and in turn can cause iron anemia.

It IS very hard to balance pet nutrition, though dogs as slightly more omnivorous mainly-carnivores are probably easier than some others like cats and ferrets to design a balanced diet for since both cats and ferrets are obligate carnivores.
Still, a few examples of common mistakes:
If the calcium levels are too low compared to the phosphorous levels then the body will leech calcium from the bones and teeth to process the needed phosphorous and that can result in tooth loss and in rickets.
If there is too much D3 then hypercalcaemia can occur.
If there is too much Vitamin 3 then copper can be interfered with and in turn throw off iron levels.
A very recent (human) study shows that too much niacin in at least one species can resemble an anaphylactic reaction if it occurs acutely, and cause liver failure is chronic. (The acute form can also be fatal.)
I also recommend for any who feed raw:
and although I am not personally familiar with them I have seen a vet recommend that those who design their own diets hire veterinary nutritional consultants such as those at
Apologies for not having refs for all of these handy; if that is a problem let me know and I will look up the desired ones and resubmit, but most should be easy enough to find by using resources such as Google, PubMed Eurekalert! and for some Science Daily

I am on Plavix, 75MG. For two months I got the Generic Substitute. I did not feel as good while on the subsitute.
Jack Barbour

People need to be aware, that unless the can or bag of pet food says- “complete and balanced nutrition”, that food is not good for a pet. I know a family whose caregivers of their elderly father go ahead and let the dog have salty, fatty breakfast foods as snacks- and animals, especially birds, cannot tolerate salt! Considering their size, just a little fatty food is enormous compared to the animals’ needs, so its’ irresponsible to feed table scraps. This particular family’s son has to cut back on his pet’s dog food to such an extent it is not funny, because it is gaining weight and no one will cooperate. The dog is ill, throws’ up, has rashes, ear infections, is mean and very sluggish from malnutrition. Just because an animal is big does not mean it is healthy. It is an outside dog but lives’ inside all day long, so it is easy for him to be gaining weight, get bored and not have the stimulaion needed, as the son left it with a very older father to cheer him up. This kind of dog needed a home where it was exercized 30 minutes, three times a day to prevent behavior problems, also. It is an english springer. No ribs are showing,which is normal for a healthy dog, and he sheds’ terribly, as he is too warm in the home and has a very short coat because of it. People need to ask vets what food is best, and what type of family a dog should go to- But getting back to the pet’s food, corn is a filler, and the animal cannot benefit nutrtionally from it at all! They have to eat tons of the food it contains, and/or beg a lot to feel good and fed enough of what its body requires’ and corn and wheat and other grains should not be the first ingredient. Soy and rice bran will hurt the digestive tract. Beef, meat base, eggs, fish and chicken should be the first ingredient mentioned on the packaging. Cats can’t grow on dog food. (As an aside-Puppies will get sick and have deformities and health problems all their lives not to mention any animal not given animal food that the vet approves’-if not fed puppy food). Cats will not drink water unless it is changed, every day. They would rather die than drink unfresh water in a bowl, so they will go without and then get to the point that they are so thirsty after awhile, that they will eventually drink from anything. Animals like toilet water because it is changed-(a bed is dirtier than a toilet, because it is not changed as often as toilet water, which is rinsed with each flush) and is cold- not slimy and full of algea like dog and cat water dishes! Animals need water two times a day accessability- This will prevent kidney failure, as well as no beer! This is from a person who learned through the years, and cares’ about her pets to know what it needs’.

I have conquered the problem of the ill fated dog food…I make my own for cheaper than I can buy it! I use our own hamburger from our own cows, (you could use the grocery store kind with not too much fat content), I use frozen or leftover fresh veggies, salt, pepper. and rice. This diet was recommened by my veterinarion as a safe diet for older dogs for digestive troubles and I use it for them all. I have 3, 2 Boston Terriers, 5 and 17 (yes, she is 17 and in good health), and a 4 year old German Shorthair female (spayed). I have had no complaints from the dogs (such as refusal to eat etc.) no any medical troubles (ie: diarrhea or vomiting etc.) and their coats are the glossiest and softest the vet and her assistant have ever seen!
If this helps someone else save a pet, then I have done my job!
L. Abellera
WA State

I just had a severe reaction of several months duration until my doctors diagnosed a drug reaction which began at the same time my pharmacy or my insuror switched one of my long standing medications to a generic.

How about requiring ISO standardization of all generic manufacturers with routine reviews of manufacturing practices? Where are certificates of analyses in all of this?

I think it is terrible that our pets have to suffer and die from this type of food. I
will never again buy IAMS food
for my cats or dog. I think that IAMS should not experiment on animals. I love
animals and they feel pain and
suffering just like we do. I think IAMS being supposed to be such a expensive brand of food for pets should use only quality ingredients in their product, but since they have gotten away without doing this, I am sure the money has already gotten to their head and they will never use only quality ingredients. Hills Science Diet should also, at the prices they charge use only TOP QUALITY ingredients.
How is the public supposed to know what to buy for their pets. I myself, will never trust pet food companies again. I think I will grow and cook up my own pets food. Then I will know exactly what is in it. Thanks for letting me vent. I lost my cat to this food.

I take manygeneric drugs for cost purposes. Am I Taking too much of a risk?


Does the vet know that Iams test on animals?
Animal lovers, please do not buy Iams.

I am a veterinarian, and have been telling my pet owners to avoid generic and house brand pet foods for years. Supposedly the wheat gluten supplied was a human grade ingredient and therefore some of the better brands of pet food (Hills canned, Iams canned for example) believed the source to be ok for their superior product. My clients (and my colleagues) are amazed and appalled that so little is known about exactly what the contaminant is that is killing their pets. Is it melamine? Is it some other unknown substance? Many other items, like grapes, raisins and lily bulbs cause kidney failure in pets and the toxic principle has yet to be identified.

Isn’t it a bit two-faced to allow pharmaceutical companies to import drugs without oversight and, at the same time, claim that individuals are at risk when importing drugs for their own use?

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