By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Pills from China a dangerous gamble?

“Made in China.” Have you ever looked at your prescription bottle and saw those words? Of course not. Your pills come from a distributor in a master bottle and is poured into a plain plastic bottle with the pharmacy’s label on it. Imagine my surprise to learn that we have been buying drugs from China, whose quality control on anything is far from adequate. 

Most of us go through life thinking that the FDA and the U.S. Government is protecting our drug supply, but this is not the case. The FDA is inspecting only a small number of the Chinese companies that manufacture prescription drugs, and many of those are often found to have serious health violations. Many of these drugs that enter our system either as finished products or as ingredients often fail U.S. safety standards. Some of these drugs are not being inspected whatsoever.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on July 13 the recall of 29 types of single and 51 types of combination valsartan medicines. Valsartan is used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.  China’s Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical — a major global manufacturer of generic valsartan — announced that the drug had been contaminated by a substance called N-Nitrosodimethylamine, which could cause cancer. Patients could have been exposed to the cancer-causing element in their valsartan since 2012. 

The failure of Chinese drugs to meet U.S. quality standards is intensified by the volume of imported drugs. China has become the principal source of many vital prescription drugs, including penicillin, heparin, medications to treat HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, cancer, depression, epilepsy, and high blood pressure, among others. In fact, most of our prescription drugs now come from China.

In March 2008, heparin, which is made in China and sold through Illinois-based Baxter Healthcare Corp. was contaminated. The tainted heparin killed four people and injured 350.

China doesn’t have consumer protection laws like we do. If a consumer in the U.S. wants to file a lawsuit against a Chinese company, they are out of luck. The Chinese government has overtaken, and put out of business, many key U.S. pharmaceutical companies by underpricing and stealing from them.

China has a plan, called “Made in China 2025.” Medicine is listed among the top 10 items in the plan. This is a determined strategy that the Chinese government came out with in 2015 that outlines China’s policy for catching up and surpassing competitors like the U. S., Japan, and Germany across a wide array of technological rivalries.

When I go grocery shopping, I check labels and if a product comes from China, I do not buy it, but with something as important as critical medicines, we have no way to know what goes into our bodies. 

Where is this pharmacist that we have in Congress and why hasn’t Buddy Carter done something to protect our prescription drugs? He needs to pass a law that all prescription bottles inform the consumer where the drug comes from. Why has the source of our drugs been kept from consumers?

Every time I take a pill, I feel that I am playing a Las Vegas game with my life.

Len Calderone


Sign up for our e-newsletters