Washington Post Series Examines Prescription Drug Supply Safety Issues
The Washington Post on Wednesday continued a five-day series titled "Pharmaceutical Roulette" that focuses on prescription drug safety issues in the United States. Summaries of series articles published on Wednesday appear below.
- "Lax System Allows Criminals To Invade the Supply Chain": In the lead article, the Post looked at how "advanced technology and old-fashioned greed" have given rise to counterfeit prescription drug operations run by "a new breed of highly sophisticated criminals." Technology that allows more accurate reproduction of medication and its packaging, a "regulatory system that is struggling to keep up" and a "great variation" in drug pricing that disguises discounts have all facilitated an increase in counterfeit drugs in the U.S. supply, the Post reports. In response, an FDA task force is exploring technology such as radio-frequency tracking and enhanced state licensure to combat counterfeiting. In addition, pharmaceutical distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health limit purchases from small drug wholesalers to 3% and have developed "more aggressive" ways to examine drugs that are likely to be counterfeit, according to the Post (Flaherty/Gaul, Washington Post, 10/22).
- "Medicaid Is Start of Drug Resale Trail": In a "growing fraud nationwide," some low-income Medicaid beneficiaries obtain prescription medications in order to resell them to "sophisticated crime rings" that sell the drugs to legitimate distributors or pharmacies, the Post reports. The drug packages often are exposed to lighter fluid or heat guns to peel off original patient labels before resale, posing risks to patients who eventually receive the medications, according to the Post (Flaherty/Gaul, Washington Post, 10/22).
- "Nevada Gets Tough, With Mixed Results": The Post examined anti-counterfeit regulatory measures implemented in 2001 in Nevada as an "object lesson in the difficulty in policing the growing shadow market in pharmaceuticals." Although Nevada's regulations "worked," they caused much illegal trade to relocate to other states, the Post reports. Attempts to reduce illegal prescription drug sales in different states have been "hit or miss," according to the Post (Flaherty/Gaul, Washington Post, 10/22).