A New York Times op-ed yesterday titled “How a Cabal Keeps Generics Scarce” discusses “the critical lack of generic drugs” in the U.S., “a preventable crisis that is inflicting suffering on patients and, in some cases, causing needless deaths.” The authors, Clapp, Rie, and Zweig, ask: “Policy makers apparently failed to ask the important question: How could this happen in a free-market economy?”
The answer? It couldn’t. They first hint at this — perhaps unwittingly — when they note that “The F.D.A. has permitted temporary imports…” Permitted? Temporary? Implying that the FDA usually forbids importing generic drugs. Why? Because the FDA is just an extension of Big Pharma. Of course, people would just go ahead and get cheaper drugs from other countries, anyways, like through the mail, so the FDA expanded its reach by expanding its “approval” process for imported drugs — all the better to be able to control this market by putting a lid on this activity. The FDA urges consumers to “Buy only from U.S.-based and known Internet pharmacies”, even if that means paying more for the essentially the same product.
The op-ed authors go on to explain how the “perverse system” in which the “Cabal” arose “was created in 1987 when Congress enacted the Medicare anti-kickback “safe harbor,” which exempted these buying organizations from criminal prosecution for accepting vendor kickbacks.” They note how “the enormous political clout of the industry’s lobby, which includes the Healthcare Supply Chain Association and the American Hospital Association” and conclude: “The Obama administration and Congress must protect patients by repealing the anti-kickback safe harbor and restoring free-market competition to the hospital purchasing industry.”