Safe Medicines Interchange

8 10 2010

Today, I was at the Partnership for Safe Medicine’s 2010 Interchange. I had the ability to attend and listen to a bunch of speakers and learn many different things about counterfeit drugs from various perspectives. It started this morning at 8:30 with a panel discussion headed up by Dr. Marv D. Shepherd. The next panel was headed by Dr. Bryan A. Liang and the last panel was lead by Tom Kubic. The Interchange adjourned with Margaret Hamburg’s, the FDA commissioner, remarks.

The whole conference was very enlightening. I felt educated today. Also, I could actually talk with others about this topic and I could follow along with the panels and come to my own conclusions. If you missed the panels or the commissioner’s discussions, you can click HERE to view in the C-Span archives. I will quickly summarize each of the panels and what I got out of them. Watching the video feed would be more beneficial. There is so much good information there.

Panel 1: Who’s Getting Hurt by Counterfeit Drugs?
I thoroughly enjoyed what Rick Roberts had to say. He talked about his encounter with counterfeit medications. It is an amazing story. Consumers need to be more educated in light of their medications and what they are taking. He takes over 10,000 pills a year. He has to depend on prescription drugs to stay alive. Most Americans use medications everyday from multi-vitamins to Insulin shots. AZT was the drug that Rick took because he was infected with HIV. His friends were dying. It was tough. Then in 2000 he was diagnosed with HIV-wasting syndrome and had to take a growth hormone that is injected daily. Halfway through he noticed a stinging of the injection sights. With his experience prior with the drug, it never stung him before. He started checking out the different sets of drugs he had and then he asked for his pharmacist and told him of the stinging and problems. His pharmacist told him to go home and check because they may be the fake stuff. Basically, Rick went home and check he compared the boxes and found a box and some darker ink and missing a symbol, etc. He had counterfeit meds. I also liked what Salvatore Giorgianni said about counterfeits. He was talking about his son in the beginning, who is a pharmacist. His son asked his dad “countefeits drugs… there are such things?” Salvatore Giorgianni is saying that we need to let people know about this. I agree with him. EVERYONE is affected and everyone should know about this. He finds it amazing that people pay more attention to what pet food they buy and what oil they put in their cars. We need to pay more attention to what is in our own bodies! If we cannot work our bodies then we cannot buy our pet food and we cannot buy our oil. The whole panel was very good.

Panel 2: Who’s Benefiting from Unsafe Drugs?
Basically, what I gathered was that the bad people are the only ones that benefit. Nancy Kennedy, Food & Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, deliberately states that the bad guys are the ones benefiting. Jeffrey Gren, from the U.S. Department of Commerce, states that the criminals are at every level of manufacturing. This is so true and so scary. Your medicines can be tainted at ANY level. The beginning process to the end process of shipment and even at the pharmacy. To me it seems a lot of this boils down to money. Even though the conference stressed the consumer side the most. I do not even have to wonder why people do what they do… usually, it boils down to money.

Panel 3: Who’s Making Progress Against Counterfeit Drugs?
After a great lunch and a great talk by Bejon Misra, Healthy You Foundation (India). We all proceeded back to the conference room and heard from more speakers on this topic. Dr. Michael Green, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, talked about PH levels in counterfeits and how you can tell they are fake because of the levels in them. There are simple field tests that can be done and there are tests where you collect the drug sample and sent it to a lab equipped with a HPLC (High-performance liquid chromatography). It got pretty technical in this panel. Sending drugs to a lab takes a while though and new technology will help this process way faster so that consumers can get information faster and then recalls of “bad” medications can be stopped. This will save money and lives. Hugo Bonar, Irish Medicines Board, talked about Europe and the initiatives going on there. He stated that,  “By the end of the day the focus is to get the packaging with security measures on them.” Medicines need to be checked at point of dispensing by the pharmacist. It seems that there is some progress being made, such as organizations addressing products and manufacturing, but we are still a long way to go. With as big of an issue that this is more people need to know!

FDA Commissioner Remarks.
Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who is the FDA commissioner, mostly summarized how bad counterfeits are and what the FDA’s goals are. She talked about the FDA beginning with the “pure food and drug act”. She says that, “We must use all the tools are our disposal to do the right thing.” With the information you receive… do the right thing.

I would highly recommend going back and watching the videos. Each of the panels were great and had good information. You can visit PSM’s website and find the whole agenda and then go to C-Span and watch each individual panel if you choose. At least educate yourself just a bit more on this topic.

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