Global is good. But when it comes to the international drug industry, Chinese and Indian manufacturers don't measure up to the strict regulatory environment we Americans rightly demand for ourselves. Not altogether surprising. That's why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is supposed to protect us.
Advocates of traditional health-conscious living may not be feeling safer, but they have been vindicated in their suspicion of the FDA. But the problem turns out to be much worse than shoddy inspections.
The hard fact is FDA's love affair with China has already killed American patients. This week's reports about FDA treatment of Ranbaxy, Ltd., Indian's biggest pharmaceutical manufacturer, are again raising disturbing questions for anybody who takes prescription drugs.
The story begins with the FDA banning over 30 generic drugs produced by Indian pharmaceutical giant Ranbaxy, Ltd.
Early in 2008, FDA inspections at Ranbaxy uncovered numerous violations liable to cause, among other problems, contamination and allergic reactions. The Indian company ignored FDA warnings, and now they have been banned from exporting their generic versions of the widely-used antibiotic Cipro and the popular cholesterol medication Zocor.
Sound responsible? It depends on where the overseas medicines originate. The FDA plays foreign favorites, and so it's also playing "pharmaceutical roulette" with American lives. In fact, government's quality control over imported drugs is so shoddy, Americans are already getting killed by made-in-China drugs.
For now the FDA no longer permits the Indian outfit to sell any new drugs in the States. This action has been taken despite the fact that Ranbaxy's products, although frequently tested, have so-far failed to contain any actual contamination!
If the FDA's hard line with India gives you confidence in their determination to make world pharmaceutical standards on par with our own hold the applause. Unfortunately, even those Administration critics who approve of taking India to task are baffled and upset by FDA refusal to treat China in the same firm way. And, unlike Ranbaxy, Chinese drugs are actually killing patients in the United States!
To take one startling example, the FDA managed to be satisfied with only issuing a warning to the Chinese manufacturer responsible for the 81 American deaths attributed to corrupted shipments of the blood thinner Heparin.
What's the explanation for this variance in enforcement? FDA spokespeople point to current criminal investigations into allegations that Ranbaxy has a history of submitting bogus test reports in order to sell substandard drugs in the U.S. a charge which the Indian firm denies.
The fact is the FDA inspects only about one-third of all foreign drug makers. Let's put aside big-money considerations involving international trade wars and the economic impact of global commerce. Since Chinese companies routinely produce sub-standard, tainted or sometimes literally lethal pharmaceuticals, why do they get a pass?
Why aren't FDA Indian bans also in effect on Chinese drugs? Maybe in years to come the unvarnished truth will be revealed to the American public. Meanwhile, what is the take-away for health-conscious citizens, especially those suffering from chronic pain?
The answer seems to be to trust yourself before you play pharmaceutical roulette in the global drug market. And that's not to say that all international manufacturers cannot be trusted. Even so, our underlying cultural problem is an over reliance on quick fixes to health issues it may have taken people years to develop.
Nowadays an ever-widening pharmacology of drugs is made available by doctors' prescriptions. Some work wonders, some only make you wonder if they work. We also constantly see and hear ads for NSAIDs, like Advil, Aleve and Excedrine. We are bombarded with this culture of drugs!
Yes, they do treat symptoms but, ultimately, the patient must deal with the loads of toxins they also contain and side-affects they provide. Made in America or overseas, all of these drugs produce relatively brief effects that can distract proactive patients from appreciating the greater value of personal lifestyle health choices.
So, there's an important lesson to be learned from the current troubling state of world pharmaceuticals. Often health problems can be headed off or greatly helped by taking a little thought rather than taking a little pill. Drugs may be "fast-acting," but pain-free wellness is forever a matter of how we chose to live, and the decisions we make along the way.
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