CBS in Chicago reported last night a startling story about prescription safety. A young boy nearly lost his life because of an error that his Walgreens pharmacist made. The story also talks about another Walgreens pharmacist error that harmed a young girl. The head of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) said that she’s concerned about this. Really? How concerned are you?
NABP puts out a notice every few days (it seems like every few hours) about how individuals should trust the safety of medications from NABP’s online pharmacy certification program called VIPPS. It may come as no surprise to readers that only U.S.-based companies are able to meet the strict verification and certification criteria. This is a bit laughable. Why?
So-called strict standards don’t apply to Big Pharma & Co.
The standards to become certified include the language seen in the screenshot from the NABP website (taken 5/7/15). Perhaps $57 million wrongful death settlements (not to mention 2 others settled for undisclosed sums) doesn’t count against you in NABP’s mind.
I’ve begun to sound like a broken record on the issue of safety – and that’s OK with me. Safety should be the number one concern for anyone involved in the research, development, manufacture, sale, marketing, distribution, and fulfillment of prescription medications. But some organizations (PhRMA and its members as well as NABP, Legitscript, and others) talk out of both sides of their mouths on this issue.
If safety was a real concern, then perhaps it is time that Big Pharma fund at 100% U.S. Food & Drug Administration inspections of every last foreign manufacturing facilities where “[n]early 40 percent of the drugs Americans take are made” and where “about 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used in drugs manufactured in the United States come from[.]” according to the FDA’s own testimony on a number of occasions. (Note: a 2010 GAO report indicated FDA had only conducted inspections for about 11% of foreign manufacturing facilities.)
If safety were the top issue for NABP, PhRMA/pharma, and others, then they would be conducting an all-out blitz in every state and the District of Columbia to ensure that prescription errors were reported properly, made public, and known to patient-consumers using any pharmacy. Instead, they want to sweep these things under the rug.
Safety isn’t a concern of Big Pharma – it’s profits.