How Safe are the Drugs We Use?

May 15th, 2008

I went to my local pharmacy today to pick up my monthly prescription. I must admit

I went to my local pharmacy today to pick up my monthly prescription. I must admit, that I continue to refuse to use the generic equivalent. I shop at one of the national chains, primarily because it is close to home. Quite frankly their service is impeccable and the pharmacists in the store treat you like it was their own business.
Today I had a discussion with my favorite pharmacist as to why I did no want to switch to the generic version and save some money. We talked a little bit about the Wal-Mart generic program that started out as $4 generic drug prescriptions and has now evolved into a 90 day supply of your generic drug for $10. We discussed how in these times, those are big savings for financially strapped consumers. My position was that the recent heparin tragedy scared me to death and that I did not feel as though the necessary precautions were in place in the supply chain particularly from low cost suppliers to make me want to trust generics. Particularly for drugs that have been around for a while.
With that said, we know that over 50% of Americans with health insurance plans take regular medication for a variety of ailments. We also know that by October the FDA will have added over 1300 new employees as a result of the food and drug issues we have suffered recently that have impacted everything from toys to dog food. Nearly a third of these positions will be focused on drug review. Are you feeling any safer? I?m not! Independent drug stores have to look for other sources of supply in order to compete with the Wal-Marts of the world. So what can they do to protect us?
The following are some red flags for all retailers to be aware of or look for. There are also industry tools that can automate a lot of this process including sophisticated databases and RFI tools. Although this is not a complete list it is a suggested starting point.
  1. The supplier can not divulge the original source of their product.
  2. Products offered do not meet FDA dosage approvals or your specifications.
  3. Supplier?s price book offers generic products that are not approved for use in the USA.
  4. The brand name or product names are not spelled correctly
  5. Payment terms requested are unusual.
  6. Ask to see the wholesale license for the state you are located in.
  7. Suppliers contact information is from outside of the USA.
  8. Product samples look tampered with or are of poor quality in either packaging or printing.
In the meantime, I will continue to use the branded products with FDA approval. I?ll sleep better at night and wake up to fight another day.
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