Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sad State of Drugs

The prescription drug landscape is riddled with shortages, sabotage, superbugs and deadly substitutions

Generic sterile injectible drug shortages impact many people.  There are few suppliers making these drugs, so when a manufacturing plant has a problem, it quickly results in shortages.  Adding to potential quality concerns, the active drug ingredients are nearly all made in China and India in plants which are rarely inspected.  Chinese manufacturers played the deadly substitution game with heparin, killing many Americans.

Such a scenario is playing out in Pakistan, where contaminated cardiac drugs killed more than 100 people.  Over 46,000 patients received potentially contaminated medicine.  Heartwire reported:

Punjab Institute of Cardiology purchases medicines from the company that bids the lowest rate. The contaminated medicines were distributed from December 15, 2011 until the first week in January [3]. He said the first case was diagnosed on December 20, 2011, but the issue was confirmed on January 5, 2012, when about seven people had died. Elahi added that the distribution of the suspect drugs had been suspended, and 70% of the tablets already distributed had been recovered. He also noted that raw material used in the medicines was imported from China and Dubai.
It's not clear where the contamination for five different cardiac drugs originated, but its deadly outcome is certain.

The overuse of antibiotics created a line of drug-resistant lethal superbugs.    Even the tape used to seal wounds can harbor superbugs.  One doesn't have to be in a hospital to encounter a superbug.  Exposure can occur from a trip down a supermarket meat aisle.

Antibiotics interact with the environment, producing drug resistant bacteria.  These deadly organisms are predicted to migrate through other species to humanity's detriment.  One strategy is reverse engineer antibiotic sensitivity to bugs, i.e. make them less super. It's a dicey predicament, one made by antibiotic overuse.

Here's hoping the drugs you get are available, safe and effective.  Under the current system, it's a dice roll.

Update 2-1-12:  Pfizer recalled 28 lots of birth control pills, which amounted to "about 1 million packets of Lo/Ovral-28 and its generic equivalent, but the company estimates that only about 30 packets were flawed.".