President Joe Biden is frustrated that his Covid-19 vaccination goals are floundering, in part because some Americans distrust vaccines. And yet his latest executive order relating to prescription drugs is likely to undermine public confidence in drugs and vaccines even more.
In his July 9 “Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” Biden says: “To reduce the cost of covered [prescription drug] products to the American consumer without imposing additional risk to public health and safety, the Commissioner of Food and Drugs shall work with States and Indian Tribes that propose to develop section 804 Importation Programs in accordance with the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003.”
To begin with, it is impossible for any state, Indian tribe or other approved entity, including businesses, to import prescription drugs “without imposing additional risk to public health and safety”—even if those drugs are allegedly coming from Canada.
That’s because drug counterfeiting is rampant. Just go to the Partnership for Safe Medicine’s website and look at all the news stories documenting counterfeit drugs in every state in the country.
And while much if not most of the counterfeit drugs are pills—in part because they are easier to make—counterfeit injectable drugs are also available, and equally if not more dangerous.
For example, Betty Hunter of Arizona died because her oncologist gave her a fake prescription drug imported from Canada. Hunter’s family told Arizona’s ABC15: “They [the U.S. Food and Drug Administration] came out and told us that the oncologist had purchased counterfeit drugs and administered them to our mom.”
Hunter had lung cancer and was supposed to be receiving Avastin, a biologic administered by infusion. Instead, the FDA said Hunter’s oncologist unwittingly gave her “a mix of mold and water.”
While fake Covid-19 vaccines have not been a major problem in the states, fake vaccines are a huge problem in certain other countries, especially Africa. And fake Covid-19 vaccines have also been found in Mexico and Poland, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The primary reason that counterfeit vaccines have not been a problem in the states was that manufacturers and the FDA closely manage the “chain of custody”—like they do with all drugs sold in the U.S.
That chain of custody, a chronological paper trail that tracks a drug from manufacturer to consumer, is rigorous. Drug importation breaks that chain of custody, and no one knows for sure who has handled the drug—or even who created it.
Some variation of Covid may be with us for years—perhaps forever. Getting the first dose is important, but booster shots may be necessary. That last thing Biden needs to do is undermine the public’s confidence in drug safety and efficacy.
And yet his importation scheme will do exactly that.