New reasons for concern over safety of pharmaceuticals
Two articles appearing in today's news should cause us concern in evaluating the safety of pharmaceuticals we rely upon so heavily. The first report is another revelation about the lack of safety in Chinese products. The Chinese government reported that almost six percent of 11,000 samples of drug capsules contained an unsafe level of the carcinogenic heavy metal chromium. It turns out that suppliers used gels manufactured from animal leathers (tainted by chromium in the tanning process) because they are cheaper than gels made from vegetable products.
China also acknowledged that 254 different pharmaceutical suppliers (12.7% of the total number of suppliers) had used the tainted heavy metal gels in manufacturing capsules. At the same time that this disclosure was appearing in the news, drug manufacturers were warning European nations that their recently-adopted rule requiring manufacturers to attest to the safety of their ingredients would lead to a shortage of essential pharmaceuticals because the companies cannot safely stand behind products manufactured with ingredients from other [read "third-world"] suppliers.
We are so eager to save 10 cents on our needed medications--and to turn that ten cents into fifty cents' profit for drug companies--that we allow our essential medications to be manufactured in unsafe environments that rely heavily on uneducated and under-paid workers operating in an unregulated environment. Add drug capsules to the list of Chinese products that have recently been linked to public and tragic safety scandals: fish, drugs, toys, toothpaste, children's clothes, tires, and even milk "fortified" with toxic melamine.