In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, approved 45 new prescription medications – more than double the amount a decade previously.
The statistic is surprising, but the increase may not be a statistical anomaly. Instead, as mergers and consolidations shrink the pharmaceutical marketplace, and rising prescription drug prices expand its profits, the potential for some companies to dump counterfeit drugs on unsuspecting consumers becomes an irresistible opportunity. A bad purchase can cost you money. It can even cost a life. If this happens, your only recourse will be a lawyer who is familiar with winning pharmaceutical litigation strategies.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t act as a consumer to find the best prescription options for you online, but it does mean you need to be aware of issues with certain drugs that could impact your health.
So, How Widespread Is the Prescription Drug Recall Problem?
Pharmaceutical recalls fell in 2015 – 44 companies involved, as opposed to 60 in 2014 and 58 in 2013. This situation is expected to improve even more in 2016, as mergers and acquisitions thin the pharmaceutical company landscape. In fact, analysts are advising investors to expect “Big Pharma” to go on a spending spree, buying startups with promising cures, innovative approaches, and cutting-edge therapies.
However, this may not be a total solution. For example, 2015 saw a single merger – between Pfizer and Allergan – create the biggest pharmaceutical company in history. Because such large companies already have extensive quality control systems in place, one would expect reliability to improve, and in many instances, it does. However, there is always the chance that merging supply chains, markets, and quality control may introduce a glitch in the system that unintentionally evades regulations.
One such glitch could be the result of language barriers. Another could be import/export regulations. A final one could be currency exchange. A fourth, on a purely human scale, could be the result of workers feeling they have gotten the short end of the merger stick.
By the Numbers
The counterfeit drug market sold $200 billion worth of product in 2015. In August of that year alone, Wockhardt of India – a legitimate generic drug pharmaceutical company – was forced by an FDA ban to recall more than 7.2 million units “amounting to hundreds of millions of tablets and capsules”.
In 2014, the FDA sent out 18 letters warning overseas pharmaceutical manufacturers about problems with quality control. Of the 18, six each went to India and China, pretty much outlining the source of most of the defective drugs entering the United States.
Six isn’t very many when one considers that there are more than 525 plants in India, and at least that many in China, all making products that are sold in legitimate Western markets. That these companies, and others less reputable, now make and sell product over the Internet compounds the problem because the FDA, not always transparent about generic drug defects, doesn’t even know about the real tragedies occurring behind the anonymity of Internet buying.
Nor is the FDA entirely candid about the number of recalls of drugs. In 2014, 836 drugs were recalled: in 2013, 1,225 were withdrawn. The numbers are not in for 2015 or 2016, but can they be far behind? Not when India’s drug pricing regulator announces further cuts of up to 35 percent in the price of antibiotics and diabetes medications.
Caveat Emptor, What the Buyer Can Do
Do not buy pharmaceuticals over the Internet unless you have thoroughly reviewed the pharmacy through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) or a similar, reputable organization. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still look for deals on prescription drug prices online. Simply print off your coupon for discounts and take it to your trusted pharmacy.
Do not take medicine unless prescribed by your doctor. In addition, because doctors are often overwhelmed with paperwork, check with your pharmacist to be certain the drugs you are currently taking will not interact adversely with your new prescription.
Know what to look for in regards to your prescriptions aside from cost, including what goes into a prescription, what the common side effects are and whether or not a generic version would be suitable. As a buyer, you owe it to yourself to decode your prescriptions and be as educated as you can be in this consumer-driven healthcare process.