Collapsing Drug Supply Line Dangers

The Dirty Little Secret
Big Pharma Hopes You Never Find Out

Pills and money There’s a dangerous weak link in today’s medical system – abusive government regulatory meddling that has left us all with a frail and inefficient drug supply chain.

For a variety of reasons that we’ll outline in the next few minutes, the available quantity (and quality) of safe prescription drugs for Americans is at risk. What has been the main cause of this weakening drug supply chain? A lot of negative trends are in place so it’s difficult to narrow down to one specific cause.

Consider just one consequence of regulatory micromanagement: Pharmaceutical companies’ outsourcing key components of their operations (such as research and development, manufacturing and packaging) to foreign firms and domestic subcontractors. Although it’s less expensive to outsource than make large capital investments, reliability and quality control suffered along the way.

Here’s one example of how a vulnerable drug supply chain can affect American consumers. In 2008, the U.S. Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated incidents that occurred in November 2007. Dozens of Americans had adverse allergic reactions, which made some patients ill… and resulted in death for others.

Investigations linked these incidents to a contaminated intravenous version of the widely-used blood thinning drug Heparin. It was manufactured in China by Baxter Laboratories with oversulfated chondroitin (OSCS) used in place of the real drug. It’s significant because OSCS costs 100 times less to produce than authentic Heparin; and its characteristics are so similar that it was undetected in standard tests.

Counterfeit versions of Lipitor, Tamiflu and other pharmaceutical drugs come into the U.S. almost daily, mainly from China and India. But these fake drugs aren’t just limited to America or a few countries. reported in October 2012 that 106 countries had found 60 fake versions of Pfizer drugs as of July 2012.

While generic drugs are less expensive and more plentiful, the occasional recall of generics can jeopardize the short-term supply. In November 2012, the Associated Press reported that India-based Ranbaxy Laboratories recalled dozens of lots of their generic version of Lipitor when glass particles were found in these lots. Ranbaxy has been investigated, suspended by the FDA from producing and distributing generic drugs (and later reinstated) since 2006.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has estimated that 40% of all finished drugs used by American patients — and 80% of all ingredients that make up these drugs — are manufactured overseas. This outsourcing has made it difficult for the FDA to ensure the quality of prescription drugs.

In September 2011, Senate hearings were held on this agency’s oversight of the drug supply chain. It was disclosed that the GAO repeatedly found the FDA does not police or protect the drug supply chain adequately. The FDA was put on the GAO’s high-risk watch list of government agencies.

How the Quantity of Prescription Drugs Is at Risk

Over 250 drugs were declared in short supply by the FDA last year; among them a drug called Methotrexate.

This drug is considered necessary to combat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in adults and children. ALL is the most common cancer in children between ages 2 and 5, with approximately 3,500 cases reported every year. Imagine your child being diagnosed with this disease, only be told that one drug needed to treat it is unavailable.
Empty pill bottles

In 2011, one of four major manufacturers of Methotrexate was forced to shut down one of their plants. Hospitals were alerted that they could run out of this critical drug within days. The FDA tried to reassure cancer patients by saying they had a plan in case supplies reached a critically low level.

Why has the supply chain for Methotrexate and other drugs been collapsing over the past several years, if not decades? A majority of patients rely upon Medicaid, Medicare, or insurance to pay for prescription drugs. The reimbursement from these entities for these generic drugs has been fairly low. Combined with the high costs of research and development and low levels of innovation, it hasn’t given drug companies the profits and capital needed to upgrade or expand their production facilities.

According to Dr. Peter Adamson of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and chair of the Children’s Oncology Group, the world’s largest cooperative children’s cancer research entity, drug production facilities considered ‘modern’ in the 1970s and 80s haven’t kept up with changes in medicine and technology.

How to Prepare and Protect Yourself from This Problem

What can you do to protect yourself against this situation? If you need one or more prescription drugs for a pre-existing condition, keep extra quantities of those drugs in your bug-out bag. Also carry the phone number of your doctor and pharmacist to refill that prescription in another town, city, or state.

Another option: Look for a licensed naturopathic doctor who understands both the effects of prescription drugs and natural remedies.

Better yet: Double down on your commitment to a preventive health strategy that will minimize your odds of becoming sick and ever having to rely on prescription drugs. It’s familiar advice, but it works!

Get plenty of exercise and rest, drink plenty of clean water, take high quality nutritional supplements and eat as much healthy, whole, raw food as possible. Acupuncture and/or massage can help manage both pain and stress, for further improvements in the quality of your health and life. All this will reduce your chances of becoming ill and relying on traditional Western medicine and pharmaceutical drugs.

Old-fashioned natural remedies such as apple cider vinegar can combat disease and assist in maintaining good health, too. Regular exercise is an excellent way to prevent diseases such as as diabetes, and stay in good health. Weight training, bodyweight exercises (such as push-ups or squats), swimming, running, or walking a few times a week can all benefit your physical and mental health.

If you’re overweight and haven’t exercised in awhile, a program called Couch to 5K is a good way to get back in shape. Results will vary depending on your fitness level and weight, and it’ll require discipline and effort on your part. If you stay consistent with this program you should see positive results within several weeks.

Action Summary

It’s doubtful any significant changes will be made in Washington on this (or any other) issue in President Obama’s second term. You shouldn’t rely on elected officials or bureaucrats to make any part of your life better. If you do, you’ll be waiting for a very long time.

If you have to buy prescription drugs, remember the phrase Caveat emptor (buyer beware). Ask your doctor and pharmacist to find the most reliable manufacturers and suppliers of affordable drugs.

Ben Franklin was right when he said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best way to avoid the collapsing drug supply chain is to stay healthy and not take prescription drugs. Focus on preventive health care for you and your family to avoid the hazards of a collapsing drug supply chain.