NYT is out with a (very) alarming article on the lack of quality control in Indian drug manufacturing plants, including the fact that 25% of all drugs shipped from there are counterfeit, with no active ingredients. That’s bad enough, but as Glenn Reynolds points out, they buried the lede:
American businesses and F.D.A. officials are just as concerned about the quality of drugs coming out of China, but the F.D.A.’s efforts to increase inspections there have so far been frustrated by the Chinese government.
“China is the source of some of the largest counterfeit manufacturing operations that we find globally,” said John P. Clark, Pfizer’s chief security officer, who added that Chinese authorities were cooperative.
Using its new revenues, the F.D.A. tried to bolster its staff in China in February 2012. But the Chinese government has so far failed to provide the necessary visas despite an announced agreement in December 2013 during a visit by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., said Erica Jefferson, an F.D.A. spokeswoman.
The United States has become so dependent on Chinese imports, however, that the F.D.A. may not be able to do much about the Chinese refusal. The crucial ingredients for nearly all antibiotics, steroids and many other lifesaving drugs are now made exclusively in China.
The article states that 25% of the cost of manufacturing drugs in America can be attributed to the requirements of inspections. That makes it easy to understand why drug companies in India and China avoid them, but I’m a limited-government, not a no-government, pure libertarian, and I’d rather not trust the free market to provide quality control in this instance – I’d be dead before market forces corrected the situation.