The Wrong Way to Fight Fake Drugs

"Poor Americans should know how to buy their medicines online safely and should be allowed to do so. In an attempt to protect poor, uninsured and underinsured Americans from unsafe drugs, we are making sure that some go without drugs completely. It is time the law was changed." – Roger Bate, AEI

In a just-published op-ed in the New York Times, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) international health economist Roger Bate highlights a better way to fight fake pharmaceuticals while still giving poor Americans access to less costly drugs from online pharmacies.

Bate’s key points:
•    CLOSING ONLINE PHARMACIES IS DIFFICULT: "Fighting the fake drug menace is like playing whack-a-mole. It is technically illegal for individuals to order drugs online from other countries. And yet no sooner does the F.D.A. shut down one dubious online pharmacy than another pops up. ...[O]nly 3 percent of the 9,600 online pharmacies it has reviewed complied with industry standards."
•    ONLINE PHARMACIES CAN HELP THE POOR: "Foreign versions of drugs can cost roughly half what they do in the United States. For the millions of Americans who are uninsured or underinsured, buying from international, credentialed online pharmacies could provide access to the medicines they need at a price they can afford."
•    SOME ONLINE PHARMACIES ARE SAFE: "In a recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper, I assessed the quality and price of drugs procured through Internet pharmacies. As expected, I found several foreign sites that sold fake drugs. But of the international Web pharmacies certified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association or PharmacyChecker.com -- 23 in all, with 211 drugs sampled -- all passed quality-control tests."
•    THE INTERNET ISN’T THE PROBLEM, FAKES ARE: "Criminal networks flourish across Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Turkey and the Caribbean act as major transit points, and countries like Panama launder the billions in profit. A global treaty against fake drugs (and the financing to enforce it) could work to eliminate these safe havens and ensure that the perpetrators of fraud have nowhere to hide. We have treaties against fake currency and the narcotics trade but...we do not have one for fake drugs."
Read the full op-ed here.

Roger Bate is the Legatum Fellow in Global Prosperity at AEI and the author of the forthcoming book Phake: The Deadly World of Falsified and Substandard Medicines (AEI Press, May 2012). Find more information about Phake here.

For help reaching any AEI scholars and for all other media requests, please contact Jesse Blumenthal at [email protected] or 202.862.4870.

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