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Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Are We Going To Get Rid Of The Ban On (Re)Importation of Drugs?

I realize that this is waaaaaaay down on the list of priorities for the Obama Administration, but for people who don't have drug coverage with their health care plan, and some who do (Medicare Part D) this is an important issue.

Remember when all the Republicans (and Blue Dog Democrats) were howling and screaming and the Bush FDA joined in the fray telling us that drugs from other countries were 'too dangerous' and that we could not trust those 'foreign' companies to have rigorous standards for their own populations? A total farce but I digress.

Well, what caught my eye today (h/t to FDL) was a little story that all these old impotent white guys like Bob Dole need to get a grip. Seems that Viagra is made in...drum roll please...Ireland! If that's not a foreign country, I don't know what is!!

But wait, it gets worse. Practically every person who has had a heart attack, angina pain, a stroke, or is at risk for any of these is now taking a drug called Plavix. It supposedly reduces the risk of re-occurrence of one of these episodes. By a reported 20%. Of course, that is 20% over and above an....drum roll please...aspirin. Aspirin can be obtained at Wally World for about a buck for a 100 pills. Plavix on the other hand, costs about $100 for 30 pills. Now here's the deal. Aspirin has never really had the kinds of efficacy and safety studies that are now routine for new drugs. It is on the GRAS list (Generally Recognized As Safe). So we really don't have a lot of good data telling us how much (if any) aspirin reduces these risks. If it does a lot - then Plavix does quite a bit as well. But if, as I suspect, aspirin does very little, then Plavix does even less. And the rest of the story (h/t to the late Paul Harvey) is that Plavix is produced in...rimshot please...FRANCE! Now that's a country that the Republicans love to hate!

Freedom fries, John Kerry looks too 'french' to be allowed to be POTUS, the French are total wimps and should be on their knees kissing our feet for us saving them from the Germans in WWII.

Which brings me to my next story. Most of you probably remember that actor Dennis Quaid and his wife had problems with the drug heparin. Their problem was actually an error by that hospital. But it did bring to the forefront a bit how ubiquitous the use of that particular drug is. It is actually quite useful - anyone who has had an IV in for a period of time, or a chemo-port knows that heparin is used to keep these devices from clotting closed. Heparin (coumadin, warfarin) is also used to reduce clotting in the blood the same way Plavix/aspirin and those drugs are - only more aggressive. It is being prescribed so much that in the bigger clinics people on coumadin actually have their own check in window since they have to get blood tests on a weekly or monthly basis.

So...most heparin in the US market is produced by Bayer. A German company. Well, not so bad, right? I mean the Germans are nothing if not models of efficiency, quality control and great design. Oops. The actual factory where the heparin is made is in ...gong please...China!

I guess this last example is more of a proof for why we DO need to be careful about 'foreign' drugs. But my point is that we have a lot of drugs in this country that are produced in foreign countries. And why the importation of drugs doesn't seem to be a problem, even when it should, as with the heparin from China.

But drugs that are produced here in this country for export cannot be brought back into this country why? They are made in the USA. The same companies that make them for US citizens make them for Canadian citizens. Are you telling me that they make them differently and dangerously for our friends up north?

This whole thing is really stupid. Let's get rid of this reimportation ban and reduce the cost of drugs for everyone. If we were allowed to reimport these medicines, I suggest that the cost of drugs here in this country would go down - simple competition. Don't get me started on Medicare Part D!

1 comment:

abetterbet said...

I suggest that if you ever run for political office in this country, that you're going to be a few bucks light in corporate contributions.
Thanks from the rest of us.