In a reply to my post regarding fake anti-malaria medication, Marina touched upon an important issue in that the problem of counterfeit drugs is not only specific to the developing world, but it occurs right here at home as well. It reminded me of a segment from 60 Minutes that aired last March that highlighted this very problem.
Access to medicine is not just about providing treatment to those that need it most or cannot afford treatment otherwise, but it is also about obtaining the right treatment. In this context drug manufacturers are clearly driven by greed–whether its the US based company with outrageous prices which they refuse to reduce, or the counterfeit drug manufacturer abroad. What’s the bigger battle then? Is it the generic company that breaks patent law in order to provide cheaper medications or the counterfeit drug manufacturers that are harder to find if they are working out of their own apartments? To me, its the latter. I’d rather have generic drugs on the market that were quality checked rather than pills heated up in a microwave. The counterfeit drug market at the time of the video brought in about $75 billion dollars a year. Could this also be a reason pharma companies sometimes refuse to lower prices, since they are losing out on billions to the black market? The CBS 60 Minutes bit is worth a watch. Here’s the transcript of the video in case it is more convenient for those of you that are interested.