Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Origin of Our Medicine - Does the Consumer Have a Right to Know?

The following is a summary of an editorial that appeared in the Los Angeles Times about the transparency of the global supply chain and more specifically the pharmaceutical supply chain.

We feel that it is important for the safety and security of the American Consumer to understand the extent of how many global imports affect their health and the need for adequate measures to secure them. Many of the products that we consume in the United States come directly or indirectly from countries whose track record on adulterated raw materials and counterfeit products is incredibly poor. How many contaminated or fraudulent products exist within our supply chain and what can we do to protect ourselves from them?

Before I pop this pill, I'd like to know where it came from
(Summary of an editorial by David Lazarus that appeared in Los Angeles Times March 22, 2009)

In his editorial, David Lazarus discusses the issue of the consumer’s right to know not only where their food comes from, but also pharmaceuticals. To prove his point he follows a rather in depth search for the origins of his Sunmark pain reliever, a generic equivalent of extra-strength Tylenol.

He shares with his readers some interesting little know facts he learned along his quest, for instance:

“What I did learn, though, is that more than half of the world's aspirin now comes from China, as does more than a third of acetaminophen and almost all synthetic vitamin C. Chinese drug imports into the United States top $700 million a year.”

He uses two recall examples to emphasis why consumers should be aware of where their medicines originate. One is the recent recall of heparin that occurred last year after more than a dozen deaths. In this case an adulterated ingredient was traced back to Shanghai, China. The second is a recall which occurred in 2006 by Perrigo, one of the world's largest manufacturers of store-brand over-the-counter medicines. Perrigo recalled 11 million bottles of acetaminophen sold under various brands due to small metal fragments which were discovered in some batches. The cause was stated as raw materials obtained from a third party, but Perrigo would not comment on the name or location of the party.

Finally, he gives his suggestions on what he sees as critical information that should be listed on each label. This is necessary in his opinion because as he states: “I'm not saying that drug makers should be required to do everything in-house. But as a consumer, I'm entitled to know exactly what I'm putting in my mouth and how it got there.”

To view the entire editorial, visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com.

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