Cheap Generic Drugs from Emerging Markets Risky

Poorly made medicines are a greater threat than counterfeit medications, according to Roger Bate and Julissa Milligan of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. They write:

Patients in emerging markets want greater access to medicines, but supplying medicines cheaply is proving problematic. Part of the difficulty is the proliferation of illegal counterfeits in the poorest markets. Yet our new research shows that substandard medicines—those legally but poorly produced—pose an equally dangerous threat to patients.

Production flaws in developing countries will only be exacerbated by lower quality chemicals inputs from China, the world’s largest chemical supplier. Ingredients from India and China are now found in 80 percent of American pharmaceuticals and probably in higher volumes elsewhere.

Meanwhile, African manufacturers performed worst, yielding 8.3 percent failures overall, followed by Chinese, Vietnamese, and small Indian producers. In emerging markets, domestically made products were far more likely to fail than imported products.

Comments (5)

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  1. Devon Herrick says:

    Roger had a similar commentary in the Wall Street Journal on July 6th. The primary concern for Americans is the possibility that many of these lower-cost, substandard generics are finding their way to the U.S. from Internet pharmacies abroad. The Customs Service reports the volume of foreign drugs entering the U.S. has increased tremendously in the past few years. Unless the drugs are obvious counterfeits of name brand drugs; or controlled narcotic pain relievers, Customers generally allows them to go on through.

  2. Larry C. says:

    I don’t understnad why the companies that sell these drugs aren’t better monitors of what they are selling.

  3. Brian Williams. says:

    They used to say the same thing about Japanese cars.

  4. Joe Barnett says:

    This is less a problem for drugs bought from CVS than from Internet sales (as Devon points out above).
    One benefit of name-brands and chain stores is that there is someone to sue (with tangible assets & shareholders) if things go wrong — so these sellers have an incentive to ensure quality. That’s why the so-called “race to the bottom” is a largely a government phenomenon, or is found only in countries with weak rule of law, where criminals can masquerade as businessmen.

  5. Virginia says:

    This reminds me of the melamine poisoning in dog food a few years back. It will only get worse as more products are manufactured overseas.