Saturday, October 30, 2004

Medicines Without Borders.

Nice play on words (the French name of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning medical group, Doctors Without Borders is Les Médecins Sans Frontières) for a totally stunning op-ed piece by a physician/marketing director for Pfizer, Peter Rost:
I am a drug company executive who believes we should legalize the reimportation of prescription drugs. I know that I have a different opinion from that of my employer on this matter, but to me, importation of drugs is about much more than money; it is about saving American lives. . . .

Drugs won't help save millions of lives if people can't afford to take them. I know that some people do not agree with me. Among them is President Bush. Senator John Kerry noted in the second presidential debate that Mr. Bush in 2000 had said that importation of drugs approved in the United States "makes sense," but that Mr. Bush had blocked legislation allowing it. Mr. Bush countered: "When a drug comes in from Canada, I want to make sure it cures you and doesn't kill you,'' and added, "What my worry is, is that, you know, it looks like it's from Canada, and it might be from a third world."

What Mr. Bush didn't say is that regulated importation of drugs would take away that risk, a risk Americans now face every day when they go surfing on the Internet for cheaper drugs. In fairness, Mr. Bush did say that he hoped to revisit the issue soon.

What I know about importation of drugs is based upon my experience in marketing pharmaceuticals in the United States and Europe for two decades. Importation or parallel trade of drugs has been done safely within Europe for over 20 years. . . .

In Europe, importers supply only authorized wholesalers or registered pharmacies; they do not sell to the public. So the chain remains closed. Authorized drugs are purchased from authorized wholesalers in one European Union country and sold to authorized distributors in another union country. This is the kind of system we should put in place in the United States.

Until that happens, to ensure safety, a good intermediate step is for states and cities to step in and provide access to lower-priced drugs. Boston and Springfield, Mass., have already established import programs for low-cost, Canadian drugs, while states like Minnesota and Wisconsin have established Web sites linking residents to Canadian pharmacies approved by state health officials.

Make no mistake about it, they are the real heroes in this battle. Every day Americans die because they can't afford life-saving drugs. Every day Americans die because Congress wants to protect the profits of giant drug corporations, half of the top 10 of which are French, British and Swiss conglomerates.

I have another confession to make. Americans are dying without the appropriate drugs because my industry and Congress are more concerned about protecting astronomical profits for conglomerates than they are about protecting the health of Americans.

Finally, some straight talk from an industry insider who knows what he's talking about, instead of the half-truths and distortions that have been coming out of the FDA and DHHS (and the White House) for years. So far, Pfizer and PhRMA haven't replied to the essay, and it's not at all clear how much longer Dr. Rost will have his job.
posted by Tom Mayo, 12:36 PM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter