Drug-safety hazards many and growing

Oh, the good old days, when all prescription drugs were safe, all vitamins healthful, all over-the-counter meds uncontaminated. Now, a host of hazards plagues the average medicine cabinet--or such is the lament in this week's U.S. News & World Report. And the magazine notes that it might get worse with Big Pharma's migration to Asian manufacturing.

The drug-safety net is riddled with holes. Counterfeit drugs are an obvious threat. And with recent news out of China, so is the threat of shoddy imports. The FDA's inspection-and-enforcement efforts are stretched wafer-thin: It has 2,000 to 3,000 overseas plants on its list, and some haven't been inspected in eight to 10 years. Suppliers of various ingredients often never get a glance. Perhaps less obvious is the lack of quality control of generics; Consumer Lab is now mounting a study of generics to see whether public reports of differences among generic and name-brand drugs have basis in science.

Predictably, Congress has responded to public outcry over the pet-food contamination scandal and other safety news since--by introducing legislation and holding hearings. Department of Health and Human Services is negotiating with China's drug regulators for oversight of active ingredients. Whether any of this will be enough to restore public faith in their medicines remains to be seen.

- read the report for more