Click on any of the FDA Centers’ pages on the agency’s Web site, and you’ll find a new, (consumer) friendlier FDA. I have seen notes here and there about a Web site redesign, so it is finally here.
I was excited to see that FDA updated its “Counterfeit Drugs” page. It is listed under the Consumer Resources headline, though, so it addresses consumers, not manufacturers. I wonder whatever happened to FDA’s Counterfeit Drug Task Force? An FDA Web site search yielded a 2006 speech as the most recent post.
Maybe FDA is trying to reduce market demand for counterfeit goods by dissuading consumers against their purchase. Links on FDA’s page include “Counterfeit Medicines – Filled With Empty Promises” and “Reporting Unlawful Sales of Medical Products on the Internet.”
In a down economy, consumers look for deals and steals, so maybe FDA’s warnings could give some shoppers pause. FDA’s warning reminds me of an Internet auction site search I did last week when researching a separate story. I found some “interesting” items for sale (brand names deleted):
“$19.99 FOR 6 NEW BLOOD GLUCOSE TEST STRIPS PACKAGES WITH 50 STRIPS IN EACH BOX. EXPIRED IN 2006.”
“$29.99 10 NEW BOXES BLOOD GLUCOSE TEST STRIPS THIS IS OVER 1000 NEW STRIPS…. SAVE MONEY BUY TODAY.” In response to a shopper’s inquiry about the expiration date, this seller wrote: “all are expired in 2007 but should still work fine. Want to make an offer on all?”
Could these up-for-auction strips be counterfeit, diverted, or substandard? Are they even anything to worry about? I certainly cannot tell from my computer screen. But their availability on the auction site indicates consumer demand and willingness to bargain shop, making conditions ripe for counterfeiting and diversion.
FDA is wise to point out the risks to consumers. Drying up demand could shorten supply. But I cannot help but wonder what happened to the task force? Manufacturers still need to remain vigilant in discouraging counterfeiting and diversion. I’ll ask FDA and report back.