We have written about prescription drugs in the Philippines on several other occasions. Both of us take multiple prescription drugs twice a day. Both expense and safety are concerns. We could buy 100% of our drugs from the big pharmaceutical giants but we generally don’t. Last year we spent about $1,500 on prescription drugs. Buying our drugs from Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, GSK and so forth would cost us at least double that, perhaps triple. In a previous post we related how we had managed to buy drugs from the big Indian pharmaceutical firms; Cipla, Torrent, Sun, Dr. Reddy. As compared to generics in the Philippines, the drugs were made by recognized firms, some under the inspection of the US FDA and they cost much less than Philippine generics. We were pretty proud of ourselves! It was therefore quite chilling to read the Fortune Magazine expose “Dirty Medicine – The epic inside story of long-term criminal fraud at Ranbaxy, the Indian drug company that makes generic Lipitor for millions of Americans.” Kudos to Fortune for this great investigation.
Also see this New York Times article on the problems the FDA has in regulating imported prescription drugs. One sobering fact is that 80% of all basic pharmaceutical ingredients used in the U.S. come from China or India. The US FDA had a four billion dollar budget and expresses frustration with being able to properly oversee prescription drugs. How can the “FDAs” of smaller countries such as the Philippines effectively regulate drugs imports? In 2005, the Philippine BFAD surveyed drug stores and found that 30% of them sold counterfeit drugs.
See also Ranbaxy Generic Drug Maker Pleads Guilty in Federal Case Ranbaxy is fined 500 million dollars.
TAKE AWAY: We wish there was an easy answer. Most American prescriptions are filled for generic drugs. The American or European is imperfectly protected by their well-funded regulatory agencies. We continue to believe that in the Philippines , it’s best to buy from an organization with a reputation to protect and the capability of navigating the international generic drug jungle and sourcing genuine drugs from Big Pharma for those that can afford them. We assume that Mercury Drug is the best bet.