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Underworld Inc - Fake PharmaToday we are going to continue exploring the unusual thinking (to say the least) typically portrayed by so-called "documentaries" and "educational" TV shows and videos. The thinking portrayed by these documentaries is clearly based on arbitrary definitions of "good" and "evil" according to existing laws and socialist principles. The solutions they imply (but do not explicitly recommend nor suggest) are the old tried-and-true failures: more law and order.

Our series of articles was prompted by a neat (and short) series of videos we came across. The series is called Underworld Inc and was produced by or for the US National Geographic Channel. This series typifies all that is wrong in current popular thinking, conveniently packaged in six instalments. If you have access to them, we encourage to view the series in order to fully understand the depth of the erroneous views they portrait. The sixth episode is called:

FAKE PHARMA

As you can imagine, this episode deals with counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

Summary

Knock-off pharma is bigger than heroin and can be found everywhere. The drug you take may be fake and the consequences deadly. This is the first statement of the episode and sets the tone.

This episode begins with a supplier who pays doctors to write bogus prescriptions for him to buy and resell at a profit to an illegal distributor. If caught, he can face a year in jail for possession and more for defrauding insurance companies. The distributor sells to people who want drugs doctors won't prescribe or people who do not have adequate insurance. He tries to help people in need but he also sells to drug abusers for profit. The distributor also risks hefty jail sentences if caught.

A law official states that as they clamp down on these kinds of drug diversion, the prices on the street go up. He is working seeking undercover seeking the street sale of illegal antibiotics brought from Mexico. He states that "these are people who are seeking medical treatment not through legitimate means". Some people in that neighbourhood avoid regular health care and self-medicate with black market medication many because of fear of deportation. These medications are sold in the park, in stores and on the street. Many medications are smuggled from Mexico. The officer also states that some people may end up in the hospital or even die due to self-medication.

Another federal officer states that they will probably end up with "more items that cannot be sold in the US because they are potentially dangerous". His team works with local law enforcement to bust suspected pharmacies. In this episode they are after a medication that's banned in US because it is an injectable and causes concern about the "general public safety". He states that smuggling happens because there is a demand but after a successful bust "illegal and potentially dangerous drugs are off the street".

The shot now switches to two people preparing medications in their kitchen. They operate by buying the ingredients and mixing them themselves "but the chemistry is sketchy" although the counterfeiter claims that they are about 99% sure they have an ideal replica from the brand name. They manufacture medicines to order and are self-taught but they work from recipes, their key ingredients being sourced from Russia and their profits in the order of 1000% markup. AIDS and cancer sufferers number among their clients. Cancer drugs can cost over 100.000 USD/year.    

The shot now switches to the Los Angeles International Mail Facility where officers are scanning for fake pharma (this is either counterfeit or illicit) but suppliers now tend to ship one component at the time and manufacture inside US. Many people buy their meds online but this is dangerous, one estimate indicates that 100.000 people die each year from fake pharma. Fake pharma are manufactured in either China or India and distributed throughout the world through Pakistan and other countries. A voice in off says that "authorities are fighting a merciless opponent motivated by profits with a genuine contempt for consumers".

The shot switches to a Pfizer lab where the voice in off states that fake pharma sometimes contained brick dust, paint and anti-freeze. Viagra is becoming the most faked pill in the world, also making Pfizer over a billion USD per year. The fake pharma is "thought to be worth" over 200 billion USD per year and that worries Big Pharma. A Pfizer officer states that criminal organizations have realized what a "treasure trove counterfeits represent in terms of profits; its ungodly".

The shot switches to Pakistan where a person is manufacturing "fake pain killers" in primitive conditions by hand by the thousands. But this person states that they can manufacture any formulation on demand. Another producer states that the medications they are producing are not "totally fake" but that they work 50% of the time. All active ingredients can be purchased locally and cheaply. A "chemist" states that as long as he has the right ingredients, he can cook-up anything easily.

The view switches again to US where a voice in off states that fake pharma is now threatening the legitimate medical supply chain. No one is safe. Also that 80% of active ingredients in US originate in other countries, mostly from China and India which are the top counterfeiters of the world.   

The "classic" solution

The implied message is always the same: fake pharma items are bad and dangerous. Law, order and regulations must prevail "for the greater good" and safety of patients.

THE LIBERTARIAN POINT OF VIEW

First things first

As we indicated previously in the article Underworld Inc 05 Knock-offs, anything "counterfeited" is nothing more than a copy which is being sold and purchased based on contracts agreed voluntarily. No more no less.

Furthermore, as we own our body and we do so absolutely, we have the inalienable (i.e. non-cancellable) right to do whatever we please with it, including taking any substance in any quantity by any method we wish to use. And this includes pharmaceuticals. The state has no rights whatsoever because the state does not own our bodies. We do.

Medications are not "special"

Any medication is a product. It Is not something sacred or mystical or deserving special reverence or worship. But if this is so, why is that all politicians and apparatchiks are so outraged and so extremistically supportive of extreme quality regulations for all medications? Ahh… good question grasshopper. This is so because, you see, medications are designed to "save lives". It's not like traffic lights or car brakes or housing structures or food or insulation for electrical wiring or… or… or… No seree! Those items are not designed to "save lives". Nope. They are designed to… errr…prevent people from dying? Precisely! Which is obviously totally different from "saving lives".

Now that we have passed beyond this nonsense about considering medications somehow "special", we can analyze the real motives for politicians to be so "conscious" about medications. The real reason is that should a medication issue be traced back to lack of political "action" this would be considered a Public Relations nightmare, likely to boot the politician out of his/her cushy job during the next elections. Therefore medication issues must be treated like a live grenade.

Compare this with quality in traffic lights or car brakes or housing structures or food or electrical insulation. When was the last time that you saw a political firestorm because of insufficient quality assurance in those items? Hardly ever. The worse that most people have ever seen are food quality issues and they almost never reach disaster-levels in terms of political capital. Hardly any politician has ever been booted out of office because of food poisoning. Medications, on the other hand, are a mind field because they deal with the suffering of the most vulnerable caused by political action or inaction. Medication issues are inherently emotional and financial. People and Big Pharma have big vested interests in them. Heck! Governments have been toppled because of medication issues. Don't believe us? Check the coup d'etat in 1966 in Argentina.

And so politicians (and by extension bureaucrats) treat medications with extreme prejudice when it comes to even minute defects.

Fakes and fakes

The word "fake" inspires the idea or notion of something that looks like the original but it is not. When it comes to medication it prompts visions of medication that has no medication at all. Yet, this concept is very misleading. Fake, when it comes to medication, is designed to elicit an emotional response. In reality and throughout this episode the term fake is inaccurate and it should have been replaced by the words "counterfeit" and "unlicensed". There is a very large difference.

Counterfeit medication simply means copied medication that was manufactured by establishments that have not been inspected by a government. Unlicensed simply means medication that has been approved for use in one country and smuggled into the next where it lacks approval.

The important issue is that in either case there is actual medication in the mediation. The medication does have a medicinal effect. And yes, a few true "fakes" containing no medication at all do exist, but they are in a minority. This could not be otherwise because counterfeiters and smugglers want repeat business. Should the word spread on the streets that supplier XYZ is providing useless medications, this will automatically mean the end of business. Counterfeiters and smugglers are in for the money. They will protect their cash flow.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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