Yesterday, I had the opportunity to catch up with the always charming Katherine Eban, keynote speaker at channel commerce software vendor Edge Dynamics’ customer meeting. She and I discussed the sorry state of public policy regarding importation over mojitos during the Edge-sponsored dinner at Cuba Libre.
In case you don’t know, Katherine’s book Dangerous Doses is an outstanding piece of investigative journalism about how counterfeits entered U.S. drug channels, primarily in the period up to 2003. She documents how South Florida criminals exploited buyers in a then-vibrant secondary market. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the mindset of counterfeiters in the pharmaceutical or medical products industry. It just came out in paperback with a new chapter. Here’s a link to Dangerous Doses at Amazon so you have no excuse for not buying it today.
Fortunately, much of the criminal activity that she describes in her book has been pushed out of the supply chain thanks to stricter wholesaler licensing, more secure business practices by manufacturers and wholesalers, and data sharing agreements that increase visibility. (See my previous post FDA blind to the supply chain’s evolution for more details on these changes.)
Katherine described a jaw-dropping exchange during her Congressional testimony last November (available here) in which one Congressman glowingly referred to diverters as “entrepreneurs.” Amazingly, the session had begun with Chairman Mark Souder stating: “The FDA confirmed with Subcommittee staff that drug diversion was the entry point for every case investigated by that agency involving counterfeit drugs going into legitimate pharmacies.”
But as readers of my blog know, our elected officials seem intent on encouraging diversion by opening new gateways for counterfeits. (My most recent rant was posted 2 weeks ago: A Big Win for ... Counterfeiters and Politicians?) Although Katherine and I don’t see eye to eye on every issue, we are in complete agreement that drug importation poses real risks. Check out her views here: Where Good and Bad Drugs Mix: Why drug importation poses real risks for American consumers.
IMHO, 2007 will provide more than enough material for Dangerous Doses II (Attack of the Clones?). The pharma industry needs to do a much better job of education because BuySafeDrugs.info just isn’t cutting it. In the meantime, feel free to send me your ideas on how we can turn the tide of public opinion. I’ll summarize the results in a future post.