The other drug war
Via the IP Health mailing list I came across an organization with the misleading name “Center for Medicines in the Public Interest“, among the authors of a publication about counterfeit pharmaceuticals, Crisis or Coincidence? Prescription Medicine Counterfeiting. Amongst this anthology’s proposals is the establishment of a trans-european policing organization, similar to the FBI, to combat the (largely imaginary) threat of counterfeit prescription medicines and their trafficking by criminal gangs. It transpires that CMPI is funded by the ‘Health Care Industry’, and is dedicated to minimizing state intereference in the (licit) drugs trade. Except, that is, where the state would like to crackdown on those responsible for counterfeit medicines. They would also like the state to reduce the scope for parallel importing, or as they call it, ‘parallel trade’. The latter of course is one of the few mechanisms introducing any competition into a market where manufacturers patents give them total power over drug prices. Parallel imports enable distributors to take advantage of the big Pharma’s commercial strategy of selling drugs at divergent prices across different national markets.
The preface to this report leaves no stone unturned in its attempt to set off moral panic and its tenore is well conveyed by its title “21st Century International Drug Terrorism”. Thereafter we are quickly intriduced to drug counterfeitings relationship with Hiebollah, the Hell’s Angels and North Korea, who are apparently involved in “International healthcare terrorism”(!). Which begs the question: what do you call organizations involved in denying access to essential medicines to hundreds of millions, substantial numbers of whose lives are destroyed or ended as a result? “Healthcare angels”?
I love the counterfeiting discussion, it is the refuge of desperate IP advocates. Unable to convince the public of the legitimacy of their claims to monopoly control over essential medicines or entertainment software commodities, they resort to claims about security, safety and reliability. The object of such a crazy discourse is obviously to generate Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in the United States regarding drugs sourced in Mexico and especially, Canada. US law prohibits re-importation of drugs produced domestically and exported north of the border, delivering the US population as captives to the Pharma industry which has long charged consumers there higher prices than in other countries, including Canada. As yet I have encountered no reports of deaths in the US attributable to medicines smuggled in or purchased over the internet. In any case, all this FUD hasn’t stopped over two million patients from making regular journeys over the border so as to circumvent the law and save themselves considerable amounts of cash. In October this year US Customs announced that they would cease seizures of small quantities (up to ninety days supply) of drugs mailed through the post.
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