FDA's Missed Target In Opioid Crackdown Hits Americans That Can't Afford Their Medications
America’s opioid problem isn’t an international mail issue, yet the FDA keeps asking Congress to increase funding in order to expand efforts to seize shipments of opioids.
The FDA’s own data shows that international mail facility inspectors found only 33 packages of opioids and no fentanyl sent by mail last year – making up about 0.06% of packages examined. What they did confiscate isn’t nearly as dangerous: pharmaceuticals; especially generic Viagra (sildenafil), but also lifeline medications used to treat diabetes, asthma, cancer, and HIV.
So why the increase in funding?
I smell an all-too-familiar rat: the drug industry's influence on the FDA to act against the interest of the American public’s health.
The United States’ opioid crisis should not be conflated with safe personal drug importation, and yet it is because the pharmaceutical industry is a savvy player in D.C. games. They have had a long vested interest in keeping the U.S. market captive to its high drug prices, and the chief way to do so is to keep the idea of importing drugs scary.
In every other developed nation in the world, patented prescription drug prices are often a fourth of the price of those sold on U.S. pharmacy shelves. I promise you Canadians and British folks aren’t dying when they take the pills they buy at their local pharmacies. Additionally, the FDA increasingly relies on inspections from EU member countries in lieu of an FDA inspection through the U.S.-EU Mutual Recognition Agreement. So who takes advantage of this trust in comparable health regulatory authorities? Industry. Who is expressly permitted to import the majority of the American drug supply? Industry. Distributors import medications and sell them at 400% markups to an American public that has little choice but to comply. After all, it’s their money or their health.
Despite the scare tactics, due to its affordability, special provisions in law that favor personal drug importation, and perhaps even seeing through the backward logic of the FDA to advise against it, millions of Americans have been ordering prescription medication from abroad for decades. To save money, there are entire programs dedicated to helping people buy drugs from other countries. These organizations include small businesses, country governments, school districts, private insurers, etc. Because what is perhaps scarier than the big bad foreign pharmacies is having your child die because they rationed their medication due to its unaffordability.
The FDA needs to know that they may very well be destroying people’s lives by destroying their meds.