Growing trade in unregulated prescriptions jeopardizes public health - - Columbia, South Carolina

Growing trade in unregulated prescriptions jeopardizes public health

(National-NBC) Sept. 20, 2005 - The high price of prescription drugs is sending millions of Americans to the internet, looking for cheaper medicines from other countries. But experts say buying cheaper drugs from outside the US could be a costly mistake.

In her book "Dangerous Doses" journalist Katherine Eban tracked a fake prescription that ended up at a local pharmacy, "Investigators believe it sat in the back of a strip club, in a beer cooler in South Florida. When you look at that, you know something is seriously wrong with our distribution system."

Fake drugs are a $35 billion industry worldwide, expected to double in five years.

Hoping to save money, many Americans order medicines online. But authorities warn, some drugs shipped from safe nations like Canada are actually made in Third World countries with little, if any, regulation.

Peter Pitts of the Center for Medicines in the Public Interest cautions, "Unless you drive into Canada and physically go into a pharmacy, you're not going to get the same drugs Canadians get."

But the imposters are also landing in US pharmacies. Despite crackdowns, and new technology to track drug shipments, government lawyers admit they're having a hard time keeping up with the counterfeiters' sophisticated methods.

Arif Alikhan of the Department of Justice says, "Counterfeiting is a very lucrative criminal enterprise, and when there's money to be made, people will be creative. They'll use their ingenuity to try to skirt the laws."

If you take medication regularly, experts say take a close look at each refill. If it looks different, smells different, or if you react differently to it, alert your doctor. It could be a fake.

Posted 10:25pm by Chantelle Janelle

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