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Trisha Torrey

Are Your Drugs Made in China?

By December 10, 2007

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If you take pharmacy drugs, you'll want to take notice of a looming problem and a potential catastrophe.

China -- the country that brought you toys, toothpaste, lipstick and other assorted products full of lead -- is a chief supplier of American pharmacy drugs and vitamins, from over the counter to generics to branded drugs. There is a good chance you have Chinese manufactured drugs in your medicine cabinet if not in your body as you read this post.

Is there any oversight? Evidently it's not even worth mentioning. Of the 714 Chinese plants manufacturing drugs which then get shipped to the US, there were only 13 inspections in 2007.

The dangers? Well -- who is to say exactly what the ingredients are? We already know that lead was found in products that we touch every day. It doesn't matter what the list of ingredients is for any given product, because there may be more -- or less -- than what it says.

Bogus drugs are another real problem. What if you use a drug to lower your blood pressure -- and the active ingredient isn't there? We've already heard tales of fake viagra and others. For lifestyle drugs, the problem isn't so dangerous. But for lifesaving drugs it certainly is. A bogus antibiotic which came from a Chinese plant is already blamed for causing 13 people to die.

Not that China isn't trying to regulate these manufacturers. In July 2007, one official was executed for taking bribes. Another was sentenced to death for corruption. And a handful of plants were closed for quality control issues.

But what happens if the US and China don't stay friendly? According to the McClatchy newspapers, the major manufacturer of the antibiotic that kills anthrax is located in China and is no longer manufacturer at all in the US. Think back to post-911. Don't think it can't happen.

What can we do as patients? Be vigilant is all. There is little an individual patient can do except to trust.

Scary, isn't it?


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