Here's another reason to question the value of importation: it may not save any money! Pharmaceutical Manufacturing just published my op-ed outlining why manufacturers and consumers would bear most of the risks and costs of importation, but would get little of the supposed price savings.
Check it out here: Importation Illusions
(I realize that my article requires some understanding of drug distribution channels, so I'd welcome your ideas on how to get the message disseminated more broadly.)
The safety issue remains very significant. Yesterday's International Herald Tribune reports on an "epidemic of counterfeits" in Asia. (See A growing epidemic of fake medications in Asia.)
The scope and sophistication of the fakes is frightening. Here's the latest trend - fakes designed to act like (not just look like) real drugs. The latest fakes "contained drugs apparently chosen to fool patients into thinking the pills were working. Some had acetaminophen, which can temporarily lower malarial fevers but does not kill parasites. Some had chloroquine, an old and now nearly useless anti-malarial. One had a sulfa drug that in allergic people could cause a fatal rash. And some had a little real artemisinin — not enough to cure, but enough to produce a false positive on the common Fast Red dye test for the genuine article."
Apparently, counterfeiting is primarily an export business from China. Criminals and their families get sick, too. See my recent post Importing Chinese Counterfeits for more on the import risk for the US supply chain.
Now that the 2008 Presidential campaign has started (only 622 shopping days left until the election), I'll be very curious to see how the candidates address the realities of the House and Senate importation bills.