An investigative journalist digs into the chilling story of how degraded, expired, contaminated and diluted medicines are being sold to American pharmacies and hospitals.
Eban, a Rhodes scholar whose work has appeared in the New York Times, New York Observer, The Nation and other publications, spent two and a half years interviewing numerous government investigators and regulators, pharmaceutical wholesalers, doctors and patients, and reviewing surveillance videos, investigative reports, court records and other documents. The result is a story rich in distinctive characters whose actions range from courageous to outrageous. Fortunately, the author has provided an annotated list of the major players in her enormous cast. The story begins with a 2002 break-in at a pharmaceutical warehouse in Florida and follows investigators as they pursue those trafficking in counterfeit drugs. What Eban found was that large volumes of drugs made by U.S. pharmaceutical companies don’t flow directly from manufacturer to hospital or pharmacy but are sold and resold in a gray market without a paper trail or with phony papers that obscure their origin. To become a pharmaceutical wholesaler in Florida requires only a refrigerator, an air conditioner, a security alarm, $200 for a security bond and $700 for a license. Aided by lax regulations, holders of these licenses, many of them criminal kingpins and street thugs, make fortunes trading in adulterated and counterfeit drugs. Eban shows the tragic results through her stories of patients whose lives have been affected by bogus medicines they believed were legitimate. Even more disturbing is what she reveals about the weakness of federal oversight in the distribution of pharmaceuticals. Her concluding two-page summary of the steps consumers can take to protect themselves from counterfeit drugs is little comfort.
Vivid writing and impressive documentation in a powerful indictment of a system in need of immediate repair.