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Counterfeit medicines continue to threaten the lives and health of millions of Americans. Two years ago, the DEA discovered that a Mexican cartel was mass-producing fake pills using chemicals sourced from China and selling them as legitimate prescription drugs, killing thousands of unsuspecting Americans. he warned.
Easily available on social media and the internet, these counterfeit pills disguised as legitimate prescription drugs such as Percocet, Xanax, and Adderall are often laced with potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. there is. So far this year, the DEA has seized 69 million fentanyl pills, more than triple the number seized two years ago.
The number of drug overdose deaths continues to rise, reaching 109,000 last year, with fentanyl accounting for 70% of deaths. The same sad, familiar story is repeated hundreds of times a day on local news across the country. A college student unknowingly took fake Xanax and never woke up. A high school student takes what appears to be Adderall and falls into a coma. And it goes on and on.
These pills from Mexico are a serious aspect of the broader challenge commonly posed by counterfeit medicines. On a massive scale around the world, fraudsters and criminal organizations are counterfeiting a wide range of prescription drugs, from common painkillers, antibiotics, antimalarial and antiretroviral drugs to cutting-edge cancer treatments. Masu.
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These fake drugs, sourced from shady companies such as China and India, are big business around the world, with an estimated value of $200 billion a year. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 10% of medicines distributed in low- and middle-income countries are counterfeit.
These counterfeit medicines pose a serious risk to life and health. They are often contaminated with dangerous and potentially deadly ingredients such as lead, mercury, toxins, and harmful chemicals. However, even when uncontaminated, they often lack the necessary active ingredients and are ineffective.
In Texas, for example, in 2021, the owner of an Eastern European company was convicted of smuggling U.S. cancer and hepatitis drugs without active ingredients and selling them to patients. In the same year, two American doctors pleaded guilty to distributing counterfeit cancer drugs that were missing the active ingredient and were purchased from Canadian online pharmacies. The pharmacy was charged with selling $78 million worth of unapproved, mislabeled, or counterfeit cancer drugs.
Fortunately, the United States has a “closed system” of drug distribution overseen by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it is extremely rare for counterfeit drugs to find their way into licensed pharmacies. This requires that drugs scheduled for use in the United States, whether domestic or overseas, be manufactured in accordance with FDA standards at factories that have been inspected by the FDA. We also need a national tracking system to track them. shelf.
However, like the cyber world, our drug distribution networks are constantly being investigated by criminal organizations. According to data from the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, the number of seizures of counterfeit medicines worldwide has more than tripled in the past decade, with the highest number recorded in North America.
As Democrats and Republicans, we are united in warning China’s Xi Jinping on fentanyl and Fair Trade.
For example, just two months ago, a Florida man used false documents to sell at least $16.7 million worth of adulterated HIV drugs to a pharmaceutical wholesaler, from where they were distributed to unsuspecting patients across the United States. pled guilty to dispensing drugs. Strong enforcement is essential to protect the integrity of pharmaceutical distribution networks.
However, the risk of counterfeit medicines is increasing in the United States as more Americans circumvent the closed system by purchasing medicines outside of approved channels.
Unsafe and counterfeit medicines are sold through tens of thousands of fraudulent online pharmacies, e-commerce, social media platforms, messaging apps, and the dark web. It is estimated that 36 million Americans have purchased medications online without a valid prescription.
The promotion of Canada as an alternative source of cheap medicines has led many Americans to believe that online pharmacies that claim to be “Made in Canada” are a safe source of medicines. But research shows most have no connection to Canada and many are fronts for organized crime networks in Eastern Europe that obtain drugs from China, India, Turkey, Pakistan and Russia.
Biden attacks China, Mexico with sanctions over manufacturing counterfeit fentanyl pills
Few industries are more important to our nation’s well-being than the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. Our pharmaceutical industry, long the most dynamic and innovative in the world, plays a vital role in our economy and employs nearly 1 million workers, including in essential manufacturing. Supporting over 3.5 million additional jobs. Fund important research and development. and generates more than $1.4 trillion in economic output.
However, the coronavirus has exposed how much of our country’s pharmaceutical manufacturing has shifted overseas, particularly to China, over the past 20 years, leaving supply chains vulnerable to disruption in the event of a pandemic, war or political tension. .
The time has come to strengthen our country’s pharmaceutical industry. As part of this, we must increase our efforts to protect the integrity of our drug distribution systems. We spend a lot of money to keep harmful substances out of the general environment, but we can’t skimp when it comes to keeping them out of our pharmacies.
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We also need broader public education and enforcement efforts to deter consumers from circumventing legitimate distribution channels. We must be cautious about proposals to ease closure regimes and lower prices in order to increase imports of foreign medicines. These measures could undermine efforts to strengthen our nation’s pharmaceutical industry and make it much more difficult to ensure the safety of our drug supply.
The scourge of counterfeit medicines is becoming a national crisis. It’s time to start treating it that way.
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