Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tony Soprano and Drug Diversion

A court injunction against an online Canadian drug seller highlights a fundamental problem with importation – and also lets me give you a peek into the interconnected world of pharma industry blogs.

Walk with me through the blogosphere

The New Jersey State Attorney General just shut down, a reseller of Canadian drugs. See State Sues Mercer County Business Offering Canadian Prescription Drugs Over the Internet.

I picked up the story from Ed Silverman’s Pharmalot blog post. Ed apparently has a T-1 connection plugged into his arm because he published an amazing 33 posts yesterday, putting guys like me to shame. (Ed provides a real service to the industry by posting real news throughout the day, every day.)

I posted a comment on Ed’s blog with a link to this glowing newspaper profile about Medications4less. Very amusing in hindsight!

The mystery blogger at Pharm-Aid picked up my comment in New Jersey Vetoes Drug Importer. (BTW, I like many posts on Pharma-Aid but do not provide a link on my Industry Blogs list because the blogger remains anonymous.) Mr. Mystery pointed to a post by John Mack on Pharma Marketing Blog in which John contends that the risk of counterfeits via importation is nothing more than a “negative scare tactic.”

My point, and I do have one…

The problem with importation is not that all drugs from Canada are counterfeit. Instead, the problem is that importation is diversion – selling products intended for one market into another market. In the case of importation, diversion is an opportunity to arbitrage price differences between products sold at different prices in different countries.

Unfortunately, while diverted or resold products are not necessarily counterfeits, all counterfeits enter via diversion in the secondary market. Let me be clear: Drug diversion is the entry point for every case investigated by the FDA involving counterfeit drugs going into legitimate pharmacies. Even Tony Soprano has finally figured out that diversion of adulterated drugs could be a sweet deal. (Thanks again, Ed!)

This brings me back to Medications4less. I wrote about the risks of internet pharmacies in February after getting a troubling email from a college student. (See A Sad Tale.)

Unfortunately, the proposed importation bill (S.242) before the U.S. Senate would enable copycat websites by legalizing diversion from countries with very low scores on the Corruption Perceptions Index. You heard me right – S.242 will make importation legal from Bulgaria (#57) and Romania (#84)! (See my recent posts for some real-world examples of the dangers: Importation Illusions; Greece is the Word; Importing Chinese Counterfeits .)

Bottom line: (a) Don't buy Fosamax from Tony Soprano, and (b) Read pharma blogs.

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