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Bitter Pills: The Global War on Counterfeit Drugs

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Long the scourge of developing countries, fake pills are now increasingly common in the United States. The explosion of Internet commerce, coupled with globalization and increased pharmaceutical use has led to an unprecedented vulnerability in the U.S. drug supply. Today, an estimated 80% of our drugs are manufactured overseas, mostly in India and China. Every link along t Long the scourge of developing countries, fake pills are now increasingly common in the United States. The explosion of Internet commerce, coupled with globalization and increased pharmaceutical use has led to an unprecedented vulnerability in the U.S. drug supply. Today, an estimated 80% of our drugs are manufactured overseas, mostly in India and China. Every link along this supply chain offers an opportunity for counterfeiters, and increasingly, they are breaking in. In 2008, fake doses of the blood thinner Heparin killed 81 people worldwide and resulted in hundreds of severe allergic reactions in the United States. In 2012, a counterfeit version of the cancer drug Avastin, containing no active chemotherapy ingredient, was widely distributed in the United States. In early 2013, a drug trafficker named Francis Ortiz Gonzalez was sentenced to prison for distributing an assortment of counterfeit, Chinese-made pharmaceuticals across America. By the time he was arrested, he had already sold over 140,000 fake pills to customers. Even when the U.S. system works, as it mostly does, consumers are increasingly circumventing the safeguards. Skyrocketing health care costs in the U.S. have forced more Americans to become "medical tourists" seeking drugs, life-saving treatments and transplants abroad, sometimes in countries with rampant counterfeit drug problems and no FDA. Bitter Pills will heighten the public's awareness about counterfeit drugs, critically examine possible solutions, and help people protect themselves. Author Muhammad H. Zaman pays special attention to the science and engineering behind both counterfeit and legitimate drugs, and the role of a "technological fix" for the fake drug problem. Increasingly, fake drugs affect us all.


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Long the scourge of developing countries, fake pills are now increasingly common in the United States. The explosion of Internet commerce, coupled with globalization and increased pharmaceutical use has led to an unprecedented vulnerability in the U.S. drug supply. Today, an estimated 80% of our drugs are manufactured overseas, mostly in India and China. Every link along t Long the scourge of developing countries, fake pills are now increasingly common in the United States. The explosion of Internet commerce, coupled with globalization and increased pharmaceutical use has led to an unprecedented vulnerability in the U.S. drug supply. Today, an estimated 80% of our drugs are manufactured overseas, mostly in India and China. Every link along this supply chain offers an opportunity for counterfeiters, and increasingly, they are breaking in. In 2008, fake doses of the blood thinner Heparin killed 81 people worldwide and resulted in hundreds of severe allergic reactions in the United States. In 2012, a counterfeit version of the cancer drug Avastin, containing no active chemotherapy ingredient, was widely distributed in the United States. In early 2013, a drug trafficker named Francis Ortiz Gonzalez was sentenced to prison for distributing an assortment of counterfeit, Chinese-made pharmaceuticals across America. By the time he was arrested, he had already sold over 140,000 fake pills to customers. Even when the U.S. system works, as it mostly does, consumers are increasingly circumventing the safeguards. Skyrocketing health care costs in the U.S. have forced more Americans to become "medical tourists" seeking drugs, life-saving treatments and transplants abroad, sometimes in countries with rampant counterfeit drug problems and no FDA. Bitter Pills will heighten the public's awareness about counterfeit drugs, critically examine possible solutions, and help people protect themselves. Author Muhammad H. Zaman pays special attention to the science and engineering behind both counterfeit and legitimate drugs, and the role of a "technological fix" for the fake drug problem. Increasingly, fake drugs affect us all.

35 review for Bitter Pills: The Global War on Counterfeit Drugs

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sima

    When you head to a nearby CVS, or a local pharmacy to buy the simplest of things, be it Ibuprofen, you do not think about the sequence of multifaceted processes which enable that pill to stand on that shelf, with its viability and its quality. This book dares to ask questions concerning an international issue that has not yet seen the limelight, even though with its dire consequences, it begs to answer questions which relate to substandard and counterfeit drugs (drugs beyond quality standard or When you head to a nearby CVS, or a local pharmacy to buy the simplest of things, be it Ibuprofen, you do not think about the sequence of multifaceted processes which enable that pill to stand on that shelf, with its viability and its quality. This book dares to ask questions concerning an international issue that has not yet seen the limelight, even though with its dire consequences, it begs to answer questions which relate to substandard and counterfeit drugs (drugs beyond quality standard or fake drugs). The under-spoken issue of counterfeit drugs affects both developed and under-developed countries and ultimately leads to disastrous consequences for citizens. The book is accessible to all readers, interlocking science and innovation with humanitarianism thus making it interesting to follow. It seamlessly moves through interdisciplinary fields of anthropology, history, politics and global health, highlighting indeed how counterfeit drugs is an international issue, tangible not just to vulnerable populations, but humanity as a whole. Bitter Pills is highly recommended to anyone who wishes to understand the different levels of manufacturing and procuring drugs, and how the legal, national and the international community are moving forward in their fight (or lack of fight?) of counterfeit drugs. A must read for anyone from any background interested in understanding a pressing issue which affects all of us and generations to come.

  2. 4 out of 5

    I Read, Therefore I Blog

    Muhammad H. Zaman is Professor of Biomedical Engineering and International Health at Boston University and in this timely book he examines the problems in tackling drug counterfeiting from science and technology, political, regulatory, and business viewpoints but while he does well at highlighting the complexity of the issues involved, there’s a lot of repetition, the writing is quite dry and the last chapter on ivory left me bewildered.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brent Thomas

  4. 4 out of 5

    Karl-anders

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Nevermind

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dyanna

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mohsin Sarwar

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael Esposito

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

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    Jeremy

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jen

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    Haley

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sreevani

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    Anna Kinkead

  15. 5 out of 5

    GFBS

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    Rebecca

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    Hannah

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    Anne

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    Laura

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    Molly Ryan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura

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    Tessa

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    Jamie

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    Sarah

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    Eliza

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    Manzoor Elahi

  27. 5 out of 5

    Callum

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    Carolyn

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    Elizabeth Aedyn River

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

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    Tonantzin

  32. 5 out of 5

    Tammam Aloudat

  33. 4 out of 5

    Celine Chee

  34. 5 out of 5

    Karel Baloun

  35. 5 out of 5

    Mansoor

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