A Look Into U.S. Drug Supply Safety
From the report "After Heparin: Protecting Consumers from the Risks of Substandard and Counterfeit Drugs"
In late 2007, U.S. health officials began receiving reports of unexpected allergic-type reactions in patients undergoing dialysis. The reactions were linked to a widely used blood thinner—heparin—and specifically to an adulterant that had been introduced during manufacture of the drug in China. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes the adulteration of heparin was an economically motivated act—a clear breach of the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors work together in a robust system to deliver high-quality products, but drug manufacturing and distribution have become increasingly complex in recent years. Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications originate in factories all over the world, moving into the American marketplace through supply chains that can involve numerous processing plants, manufacturers, suppliers, brokers, packagers and distributors.
The number of drug products made outside of the United States doubled from 2001 to 2008, according to FDA estimates. The FDA estimates that up to 40 percent of finished drugs used by U.S. patients is manufactured abroad, and 80 percent of active ingredients and bulk chemicals used in U.S. drugs comes from foreign countries. Increasingly, the United States relies on drug manufacturing in developing countries—mainly China and India. Globalization, increased outsourcing of manufacturing, the complexity of pharmaceutical distribution and the existence of criminal actors willing to capitalize on supply chain weaknesses has created the potential for counterfeit or substandard medicines to enter the system and reach patients. As evidenced by the adulteration of heparin and other case studies outlined in this report, these rare but potentially serious events can have grave consequences.
Full Graphic: A Look Into U.S. Drug Supply Safety
Full Report: After Heparin: Protecting Consumers from the Risks of Substandard and Counterfeit Drugs
On Thursday, May 23, the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing, entitled "Examining Drug Compounding." Gabrielle Cosel, a drug safety expert, testified on the need to clarify oversight of compounding pharmacies on the state and federal level.
Public health and consumer advocacy groups are attacking Senate legislation designed to tighten oversight of specialized pharmacies such as the one at the center of this past fall’s deadly meningitis outbreak, saying it does not adequately address health risks. More info
An Ohio legislator’s plan to establish a nationwide prescription drug tracking system to protect patients from fake drugs was approved by the House Commerce Committee. More info
''A subsidiary of India's largest pharmaceutical company has agreed to pay a record $500 million in fines and penalties for selling adulterated drugs and lying to federal regulators in a case that is part of an ongoing crackdown on the quality of generic drugs flowing into the U.S." More info
"As differing bills for securing the pharmaceutical supply chain wind their way through the US House and Senate, a key hurdle to passing legislation may have just been cleared. Earlier this week, the National Community Pharmacists Association – which is a member of an influential industry coalition that has been floating its own proposals – is now willing to back either bill." More info
"U.S. senators considering fundamental changes to how the practice of pharmacy compounding is regulated heard almost unanimous support for reform at a Washington committee hearing Thursday." More info
"At least 67 people have died in 20 outbreaks caused by contaminated drugs since 2001, experts told a Senate hearing Thursday. The Food and Drug Administration says there have likely been more cases than that, but they have no way of telling now." More info
"State pharmacy officials on Thursday threw their support behind a proposal giving the Food and Drug Administration authority over large compounding pharmacies, in an effort to head off more outbreaks tied to contaminated medications." More info
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on May 9 entitled "Pharmaceutical Compounding: Proposed Legislative Solution." Pew's Allan Coukell, a pharmacist and drug safety expert, testified on the need to strengthen oversight of the compounding industry. More info
When a doctor sticks a needle in you, you expect that the drugs it carries won’t be tainted. But, possibly owing to a strange gray area in federal law, thousands of patients last October got injections for back pain that contained highly dangerous fungal meningitis, and dozens of them died. Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee are now seeking to fix the government’s oversight of the obscure world of compounding pharmacies. The reforms they want are overdue. More info
The Pew Charitable Trusts commented on the draft proposal to secure drug distribution in the United States. Although recognizing that the draft is the product of a sustained effort to address a complex system and balance sometimes competing imperatives, Pew shared areas of significant concern. More info
The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on April 25 entitled "Securing Our Nation’s Prescription Drug Supply Chain." Allan Coukell, a pharmacist and drug safety expert, will testify on the need to establish a national system to track and authenticate medicine. The principles outlined in his prepared testimony are supported by other stakeholders in statements from consumer, patient, public health, and industry groups. More info
The Pew Charitable Trusts has identified 20 pharmacy compounding errors associated with 1022 adverse events, including 75 deaths, since 2001. More info
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last week said it found widespread safety violations at more than two dozen specialized compounding pharmacies. The agency’s announcement comes after a nationwide outbreak of meningitis that killed more than 50 people and sickened hundreds who received contaminated injections made at a Massachusetts pharmacy. More info
"The deaths and illnesses linked last fall to a New England pharmacy operating in the regulatory shadows as a cut-rate drug manufacturer is one of the biggest pharmaceutical public health disasters in American history." More info