The Counterfeit Drug Boom

from the telling-the-whole-story? dept

Reuters is running an interesting story about how the counterfeit drug market is booming lately, thanks to the internet and more advanced distribution chains. Unfortunately, the article seems to leave out a few important details. While it says that the drugs can "contain the incorrect dose, the wrong ingredients or no active ingredients at all," it doesn't say how many of the counterfeit drugs actually do have issues with incorrect dosage or ingredients. How many of them are actually exact copies of the real drugs, and therefore perfectly healthy under the right circumstances? Also, more importantly, it never seems to mention exactly why there's such a big market in these drugs -- especially in places like Asia and Africa -- which is that the price of these drugs is way too high for people to buy there. And, when faced with the prospect of dying or trying a counterfeit drug -- perhaps counterfeit drugs don't look as bad. That isn't to defend the situation at all, but it seems like those are important factors to mention in explaining the causes behind the boom.
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  • identicon
    dorpus, 1 Aug 2005 @ 5:56am

    On the other hand

    Pharmaceuticals do spend billions of dollars to build new drugs, as they must hire thousands of scientists, go through expensive clinical trials. Many a new drug company went bankrupt because they could not afford clinical trials, if the FDA demands a phase-3 repeat. We have recent examples like Vioxx or Celebrex to show how drugs that look good turn out to be harmful.

    Clinical trials cannot be outsourced or automated; we cannot have the lowest bidders in India claim good results for us. The success rate of new drugs continues to fall, as it becomes harder to improve on existing drugs. So yes, there is a reason why new drugs are expensive, and why the rate of innovation is falling. This isn't the music industry, even if some techies would like to compare it that way.


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anon, 1 Aug 2005 @ 7:44am

      Re: On the other hand

      That is such bull. Your complaining that you can't outsourse the work? Good! Who the hell wants the lowest bidder? They do the least ammount of work. What happened to quality? I don't want drugs tested in India!

      The problem is the big drug makers and how there products are killing people. IF they had a safer product, then the FDA regulations wouldn't have gone this far. Keep screwing up and the regulations will get worse. Then ONLY the big companies will be able to afford the process.

      We are not lab rats, they should have to go through a complex process to certify that a product isn't harmful.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Good lord, 1 Aug 2005 @ 8:55am

        On the gripping hand

        I do hope Anon realizes that that's precisely the attitude that keeps drug prices high. It is simple economics - if you don't recoup investment, you don't make more drugs, and raising the investment cost with expensive trials (that, if you haven't noticed, don't seem to actually catch harmful side effects - tune in for major lawsuits today!).
        Only the big companies can afford the process *now*. And it doesn't do that much good. What planet do you live on? Perhaps $800M (the estimated cost of bringing a drug to market) seems cheap to you; to me, that's rather a lot. With our current regime, aspirin would never have made it to market.
        This is not an agrument for more IP protection - quite the opposite. Health care is a matter of trade offs - intervention always has costs. People should be more engaged with their own health, and realize that intervention *of course* has costs and risks - you wouldn't be doing that to your body unless you needed to.
        A minimal safety regime makes sense. The grab bag of paperwork and delay we have today is nothing but a competition shield - raise the costs until only an incumbent can play. And with the law suits, there's a serious wildcard - pick a winner and you, too can be forced into bankruptcy. And everyone who needs a pill pays for that risk. That isn't to say I want drug companies to be immune to lawsuits, but people do need to understand the economics behind what's going on here - reality is not optional.
        Which brings us back to knockoffs. Which do improve the life of the people using them, but disrupts the screwed up market we've created. Doesn't that tell us something?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Aug 2005 @ 8:58am

        Re: On the other hand

        Comment 1: The sky is blue.
        Comment 2: You're a moron! The sky is totally blue. (Actually, sorry, it's more like "your a moron")

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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