Counterfeit drugs from overseas
A recent study by the New York Times and others identified a serious problem with regulating counterfeit drugs from overseas. For example in May of 2006, British authorities identified and intercepted a shipment of more than 800 pounds of illicit drugs which were counterfeits of well-known drugs sold by Merck, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Procter & Gamble. The drugs involved were life-supporting medications for treating high blood pressure, cholestrol, acid reflux, cancer, and other serious medical problems. Many of the drugs were contaminated. In July of '07 a half million fake Plavix pills that originated in Mauritius were seized in Dubai's free trade zone. In June, Panamanian authorities seized a warehouse full of contraband internet pharmaceuticals.
Government and pharmaceutical representatives maintain that the trade in unregulated, counterfeit pharmaceuticals has blossomed with the creation of free trade zones around the world. The enormous mark-up of prices for medicines in the United States, coupled with the capacity to "launder" and mis-label pharmaceuticals in various free-trade zones, has created an international criminal enterprise worth billions of dollars, supplying American consumers with medications that are dirt cheap and often dirty. Frequently, they are provided with false packaging suggesting a provenance in Canada.
Currently, Canada provides almost 800 million dollars per year worth of low-cost meds to two million uninsured or underinsured Americans who cannot afford artificially inflated American prices. When large pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Merck attempted to eliminate the Canadians' supply of medications, Canadian firms were forced to buy indirectly through other overseas suppliers and have now found their supply chain to be contaminated. Many of the unregulated and contaminated pharmaceuticals have been traced to the illicit drug trade in China which was described at length in a 2007 New York Times investigation.