Are Fake Prescription Drugs Killing Us?

"What would have cost tens of thousands of dollars...can now be done for hundreds of dollars, so it's easier to fake stuff now," warns Roger Bate, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the author of "Phake: The Deadly World of Falsified and Substandard Medicine."

Counterfeit, adulterated, or otherwise compromised prescription drugs are a major problem in Africa and a growing problem in the First World, argues Bate. In recent years, counterfeiters passed off hundreds of thousands of phony Lexapro pills around the globe and in 2008 at least 149 Americans died from fake Heparin, a blood-thinning drug. All told, says Bate, the number of deaths globally from ineffective drugs ranges from 100,000 to 1 million.

As drug production moves to China and other developing nations where oversight is tougher to maintain and more sales take place online where provenance can be tougher to ascertain, Bate says that the most viable solution is increased vigilance on the part of drug makers, providers, and patients alike. He looks forward to a fast-approaching world in which hand-held spectrometers verify pills on the spot and praises various online-pharmacy certification programs.

Referring to the classic 1949 film, "The Third Man," in which Orson Welles plays a drug counterfeiter whose watered-down penicillin in post-war Europe leads to the death of several children, Bate gives Hollywood credit for being well ahead of the curve on putting the spotlight on what he calls "the 2nd oldest profession."

About 7 minutes. Interview by Nick Gillespie (follow him on Twitter at @nickgillespie). Produced by Anthony L. Fisher, with camera by Jim Epstein and Joshua Swain.

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  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    I never thought of "The Third Man" as a "but think of teh childrunz!!11!" movie.

    Now I do.

    Shit...

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's a great movie nonetheless.

  • db||

    It's fixed now, but at first the title was AMPERSAND PWNED.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    You know who else was in Austria in the 40's...

  • Pro Libertate||

    Arnold Schwarzenegger?

  • R C Dean||

    Stalin?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Paul Hogan?

  • ||

    Franz Klammer?

  • Brandybuck||

    Werner Klemperer?

  • Russell||

    And who is paying AEI to tell Libertarians to be very afraid of free market drug pricing and seal the borders against the competition?

    This is your think tank on Big I*harma

  • The Hammer||

    "the most viable solution is increased vigilance on the part of drug makers, providers, and patients alike."

    Yep, totally advocating more government control and abandoning the free market. Totally. Idiot.

  • Russell||

    Try reading Sullum's account of how one drug maker got the FDA to give it a prescription monopoly on colchicine, which has been in continuous medical use for 3,000 years.

  • ||

    Try reading that sentence, and then reading your own. Then reading the first again. Then reading the second. Then pulling your head out of your ass.

  • ||

    Yeah, you so burned us.. Guess the concepts of "fraud" and "counterfeiting" are lost on you.

  • ||

    Well, I think this is a good enough reason to dust off The Third Man rewatch the amazingness.

  • anon||

    I'd use this as an argument to legalize prescription drugs. I mean seriously; if anyone is allowed to manufacture it, then you can buy from a trusted manufacturer at a reasonable price.

    Removing the absurd markup on drugs (induced by state-granted monopoly) would force the counterfeiters to do something more productive with their time.

  • R C Dean||

    Of the two drugs mention by name, one is available as a generic (starts with an "h", squirrelz), while the other is not. I'm pretty sure.

  • ||

    As drug production moves to China and other developing nations where oversight is tougher to maintain and more sales take place online where provenance can be tougher to ascertain, Bate says that the most viable solution is increased vigilance on the part of drug makers, http://www.lunettesporto.com/l.....-3_12.html providers, and patients alike. He looks forward to a fast-approaching world in which hand-held spectrometers verify pills on the spot and praises various online-pharmacy certification programs.

  • joy||

    In recent years, counterfeiters passed off hundreds of thousands of phony Lexapro pills around the globe and in 2008 at least 149 Americans died from fake Heparin, a blood-thinning drug. http://www.petwinkel.com/pet-red-bull-c-54.html All told, says Bate, the number of deaths globally from ineffective drugs ranges from 100,000 to 1 million.

  • jason||

    Fake medicines are really harmfull for the peoples but the governments have not ban on these medicines.

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  • RxRights Advocate||

    Yes, counterfeit drugs are a real concern but it's important to note that there are legitimate online pharmacies out there that sell safe prescription drugs--and many Americans depend on them to access their needed medications at prices they can afford.

    A study recently released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, also by Roger Bate, confirms that personal drug importation through legitimate Canadian and other international online pharmacies is a safe, money-saving option for Americans. According to this study, among the verified websites tested, U.S.-based pharmacies charged an average of 52.5 percent more than international pharmacies for four, top-selling brand-name medications.In addition, all 211 drugs sampled from verified online pharmacies passed quality-control tests.

    It's important to point U.S. consumers to online pharmacies that are accredited, licensed, and follow strict standards to ensure patient safety. Consumers can visit www.rxrights.org for more information about how to choose a safe online pharmacy.

    RxRights is a national coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting and protecting American consumer access to sources of safe, affordable prescription drugs.

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