Thursday, January 29, 2009


Charles R. Earl, M.A., ABD
CEO, Communication Connections

No, we’re not discussing the licorice candy that resembles cold treatment capsules. Rather, “good and plenty” could be used to describe the current state of the global and national pharmaceutical industry. Just review an episode of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” to get a sense of how pharmaceuticals have progressed in the last 150 years. Dr. Quinn was generally limited to coal oil (a kerosene derivative), cod liver oil, mustard plaster and various bi-products of opium for her medicines. Local residents without the benefit of a knowledgeable physician were forced to purchase their pharmaceutical products from traveling medicine wagons (often ineffective, generally risky), or to form their own medicines after foraging the land.

The point of this exercise is that Today’s pharmaceuticals are more plentiful and effective than ever would have been imagined in the past. With success, however, comes temptation. As pharmaceutical remedies have become more prevalent, so have the opportunities for fraud and misuse. Individuals have discerned that they can substitute worthless copies for effective drugs and reap enormous profits from resale either in the legitimate supply chain or from illicit sales “on the street.” Unethical entities have also discovered that they can exchange slight variations in certain compounds that dramatically lower the cost of production and…radically undermine the effectiveness of the product, thus placing the well-being and lives of patients in peril.

So, while the availability of effective pharmaceuticals is “good and plenty,” the nefarious schemes by unscrupulous characters can severely affect the value of the products and seriously erode public confidence in the industry. This diminished faith will impact every link in the pharmaceutical supply chain. If patients and end users suspect the reliability of the pharmaceutical industry, then they may become more apt to seek their remedies from the back pages of various supermarket magazines. This type of activity would be the 21st Century version of medicine-show purchasing and foraging. While some “quack” remedies may have a short-term “placebo” effect, the long-term consequences will be unfavorable for patients and the industry.

At every step in the pharmaceutical supply chain, industry representatives must do everything possible to insure that the product has not been substituted or changed. Each and every patient, each and every dispenser, each and every handler of the product must have confidence in its efficacy. One old axiom states that “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” When examining the issue of medical safety, that axiom is warranted.

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