The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1163: Should You Trust Your Prescription Drugs?

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Where are your prescription drugs made and how do they get to you? Are you satisfied that they are of the best quality possible?
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Do you use mail order for your prescription drugs to get a better price? Many insurance companies strongly encourage people to order online from preferred sources so they can control how much they have to pay. Most of us like to save money. However, are there any downsides to getting your medicines mailed instead of picking them up at the pharmacy?

Too Hot or Too Cold?

The FDA and the drug makers set standards for how your prescription drugs should be stored. In most cases, these also apply to how they should be shipped. Yet shipping vehicles may easily become much too hot in the summertime or too cold in the winter. How does such temperature variation affect the potency of the medicines?

Weighing Price vs Quality:

Shockingly high prescription medication prices in the US have led many Americans to focus almost exclusively on price. That is the allure of cheap generic drugs made in places with lower wages. Is there a trade-off against quality, though? Now that more than 80 percent of our generic drugs come from overseas, the FDA has difficulty carrying out inspections. The recent recalls of the blood pressure pills losartan, valsartan and irbesartan due to contamination with cancer-causing chemicals underscores the importance of maintaining manufacturing quality.

A Whistleblower Speaks Up:

Dinesh Thakur was a drug developer in the US for more than a decade, but he was excited to have a chance to work in the pharmaceutical industry in his home country of India. However, when he discovered that the company he worked for had a practice of falsifying drug quality data, he blew the whistle. He notified the US FDA of the problems. As a result, the agency banned the company from exporting some of its products to the US. Ultimately, the firm paid $500 million in fines and pleaded guilty.

Problems persisted, however. Mr. Thakur explains the difficulties of monitoring manufacturing quality in India and elsewhere. American consumers and their doctors need to learn to pay attention to medication quality as well as price. You may find this challenging, but you can check online for the reputation of the manufacturer listed on your prescription drugs bottles.

This Week’s Guests:

Stephen F. Eckel, PharmD, MHA, BCPS, is Associate Dean for Global Engagement and Interim Chair of the Division of Practice Advancement and Clinical Education at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. He is also a clinical associate professor there.

Dr. David Gortler is a former FDA Medical Officer and has worked as a pharmacology expert in the area of drug safety for two decades. He is a professor of pharmacology and biotechnology in Washington, DC. He consults for the group www.FormerFDA.com.  He has written articles regarding America’s dependence on low-quality imported generic drugs and the FDA’s repeated failures to regulate such medications properly.

Dinesh Thakur is a public health activist focused on improving the quality of affordable medicines around the globe. His current focus is to improve health policy and drug regulation in both the US and India. As a whistleblower, he was responsible for the prosecution of Ranbaxy Laboratories for supplying adulterated drugs to the US market in 2013. The company pled guilty to criminal felonies in the US court and paid $500 million in fines. The need for data integrity has become a global issue in drug manufacturing since his case became public.

His website is:  www.dineshthakur.com You can find him on Twitter: @d_s_thakur

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