SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

Global teamwork and national tracking needed to stop fake drug problem

A national system to trace drugs from factory to patient is needed to stop fake drugs from entering the supply chain, according to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine.

The Institute of Medicine, an independent, nonprofit organization that provides unbiased advice to decision makers, produced the report at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to assess the public health effects of drugs that are counterfeit, substandard or falsified. Fake drugs can harm or kill patients and promote the emergence of drug resistance, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports.

The report said the first step in the U.S. is to create a drug tracking program that would allow for a drug to be tracked from manufacturer to patient.

Lawrence Gostin, the chair of the IOM committee that produced the report, said that globalization of the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is contributing to the problem. In the now global industry, a drug ingredient could come from one country, while the pill could be made in a second country, packaged in a third and be sold by a website in a fourth, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The good news is that if we have the political will, we can do something about it," Gostin said, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Our report offers a road map for that."

The report said that international cooperation is needed through strengthened regulatory systems that harmonize from government to government and common terms such as the term "substandard drugs" to refer to drugs that don't meet quality standards and the term "falsified drugs" to refer to products in which false identity or source representations have been made.

Gostin said fake drugs in lower-income countries have contributed to drug-resistant malaria and tuberculosis.

"These problems make people lose trust in the health system," Gostin said, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports.

Websites also play a significant role in selling fake drugs. An earlier European report found that more than half of drugs sold online are fake or substandard.

In the short-term, the report recommends that consumer education programs be established to alert patients that they can verify an online pharmacy is legitimate by using the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's verified internet pharmacy practice sites.

"The best solution for now is to make consumers aware and give them a clear way to find an internet site that is reliable," Gostin said, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.