U.S. prescription drug system

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The U.S. prescription drug system is currently under attack, according to an October 19, 2003 article by Gilbert M. Gaul and Mary Pat Flaherty, staff writers for the Washington Post:

"For half a century Americans could boast of the world's safest, most tightly regulated system for distributing prescription drugs. But now that system is undercut by a growing illegal trade in pharmaceuticals, fed by criminal profiteers, unscrupulous wholesalers, rogue Internet sites and foreign pharmacies. ... In the past few years, middlemen have siphoned off growing numbers of popular and lifesaving drugs and diverted them into a multibillion-dollar shadow market. Crooks have introduced counterfeit pharmaceuticals into the mainstream drug chain. Fast-moving operators have hawked millions of doses of narcotics over the Internet."
"The shadow market takes advantage of technology, global trade, vast disparities in pharmaceutical prices, the explosive growth of enticing new miracle drugs and the self-medicating habits of an aging baby-boom population. It extends from small, backroom operations to buck-raking Internet pharmacies to the warehouses of the nation's largest drug distributors. ... Diverters reap millions illegally by buying drugs at a discount to sell to secondary wholesalers, which then sell them to other distributors, including the Big Three wholesalers that supply most major hospitals and chain stores. The Big Three risk buying from these secondary sources because they can get drugs more cheaply than if they bought them directly from manufacturers. In some cases, the drugs have turned out to be diverted, diluted or counterfeited."
"Three Fortune 500 companies -- Cardinal Health Inc. of Dublin, Ohio; McKesson Corp. of San Francisco; and AmerisourceBergen of Chesterbrook, Pa. -- dominate the drug wholesaling industry, with combined annual revenue of $146 billion. They are known in the business as the Big Three."

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links

  • Gardiner Harris, Cheap Drugs From Canada: Another Political Hot Potato, New York Times, October 23, 2003.
  • Prescription Desk Reference, Prescription Drug Information:
  • A Plan to Import Drugs Safely, Op-Ed, New York Times, November 1, 2003: "The state of Illinois has effectively skewered contentions by the federal Food and Drug Administration that it would be risky to import prescription drugs from Canada to save substantial sums of money. Indeed, an expert panel that visited Canada on behalf of the state has fashioned a plan that should actually make it safer for state employees to purchase drugs from Canada than in this country."
  • Arnold S. Relman, Your Doctor's Drug Problem, New York Times Opinion, November 18, 2003: "The rising costs of prescription drugs are driving the current debate about Medicare reform. Yet Republicans and Democrats alike may be unaware of a primary reason for this inflation: doctors are taught about drugs by agents of the pharmaceutical industry, which works hard to persuade them to select the newest and most expensive medications -- even in the absence of scientific evidence that they are any better than older, less costly ones."
  • Edward Walsh and Bill Brubaker, Drug Benefit's Impact Detailed, Washington Post, November 26, 2003: "The vast majority of Medicare recipients should receive some benefits from the program when it takes effect in 2006. But the size of the benefits will vary depending on each person's annual spending for prescription drugs, and in many cases will involve substantial out-of-pocket expenses. ... For those joining the voluntary plan, prescription drug coverage will not be provided by the government but by private companies."
  • Andrea Stone, Benefits start in '06, but help available sooner, USAToday, November 26, 2003.
  • Andrea Stone, Bill falls short of coverage members of Congress get, USAToday, November 26, 2003.
  • Jim Drinkard, White House may be receptive to importing drugs, USAToday, November 26, 2003.
  • Judy Sarasohn, Seniors Group Overdue on Lobbying Report, Washington Post, November 27, 2003: "PoliticalMoneyLine notes on its Web site (www.fecinfo.com) this week that the Seniors Coalition, which lobbied Congress on Medicare and prescription drug issues, did not file its required disclosure of expenditures for Jan. 1 through June 30. It was due Aug. 14."