After mentioning my cheerful outlook on drug reimportation, I should bring up the interesting case of a Pfizer executive, Peter Rost, who also thinks that the drug safety argument is a loser and is willing to say so. (But he's saying it because he thinks that Canadian reimportation would be a really great idea. This is, to put it gently, a most unusual position for a pharmaceutical executive to take.) Rost has been all over the news and in front of Congress, telling everyone with a microphone what he thinks.
He lays it right out about the ridiculous drug safety tactics, saying that he's "never, not once, heard the drug industry, regulatory agencies, the government or anyone express any concern related to safety" and that ". . .companies are testifying that imported drugs are unsafe. Nothing could be further from the truth." Hey, open up! It's good for the soul!
How is Pfizer taking this? Not too well. One of their other executives, one Chuck Hardwick, sent a letter to members of Congress saying "Dr. Rost has no qualifications to speak on importation, no responsibilities in this area at Pfizer, no knowledge of the information and analysis Pfizer has provided to the government on this issue and no substantive grasp of how importation may impact the safety of this nation's drug supply." Safety first, Chuck, never forget. We're going to go down with this one eventually, but at least we'll go down as a team, eh? Another Pfizerite, Paul Fitzhenry, says that Rost's comments "impugn the integrity" of people inside the drug industry who've made the safety argument. Well, I'd hate to impugn anyone's integrity. How about their intelligence?
Now, I don't think that the drug-safety firewall is going to crumble tomorrow (not with things like this going on. But these findings are a direct consequence of one of the only weapons my industry has in the reimportation battle: limiting the supply of drugs to Canada. The Canadian pharmacies are turning to other countries, not all of them reliable.
This will work, for a while - but is it a weapon we want to be seen using? There's a real possibility that this will create shortages of some medicines in other countries as the supply problem cascades along. Do we want everyone to watch as we turn the spigot?
Economics. Drug reimportation is an economic issue, not a safety issue. We've allowed ourselves to get price-controlled into a corner, and we need to find a graceful way out of it. But instead, we're helping to saw through the floor. . .