False Profits

  • by: |
  • 09/10/2005

When asked why he robbed banks, Willy Sutton, the depression-era desperado replied, “because that’s where the money is.” And, as my former boss Mark McClellan used to say, if Sutton were alive today he’d be selling counterfeit prescription drugs. The bad news is that international prescription drug counterfeiting is on the rise. The worse news is that pending US legislation could make it even worse. Two news items crossed the wire late this week that illustrate this growing problem — and its truly global nature. The first story, from China, tells of eleven Chinese nationals and one American arrested in a counterfeit medicine scheme that spanned eleven countries, 440,000 bogus pills and $4.3 million US dollars. The drugs being peddled were Lipitor, Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. The nations involved were the US, Great Britain, Switzerland and Israel. (Note to Senators Dorgan and Vitter: Drug importation from the EU is dangerous.) The second, more frightening news item comes from Hamilton, Ontario where a registered pharmacist, Abadir Nasr, was charged with selling counterfeit Norvasc (a medicine used for the chronic treatment of hypertension and angina). Congressman Bernie Sanders (I, VT) and others, when asked about the dangers of drug importation are fond of quipping, “Show me the dead Canadians.” Well, the regional coroner in Hamilton is currently investigating the deaths of five people who filled prescriptions for Norvasc at Mr. Nasr’s pharmacy. All five died of a heart attack or stroke. (Note to Governors Pawlenty, Blagoevich and Doyle — and a big red warning to Governor Perry: Drug importation from Canada is dangerous.) Attention must be paid to this very serious problem and the way to make it better is not to make it worse by opening up American borders to medicines not under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Here’s another question — why haven’t either of these news stories been reported by any major American media. (Note to The Washington Post and the New York Times: Google “Hamilton, Ontario.”)


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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