I Can Haz Less Poison in My Drugs?

The Journal reports this morning that:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned imports of more than 30 generic drugs made by India’s Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., citing concerns about the safety of the company’s production practices.

The ban affects low-cost versions of popular medicines such as the anticholesterol drug Zocor; Acyclovir, which treats herpes; the heartburn pill Zantac; and AIDS drugs. Consumers shouldn’t be affected by a medicine shortage because the drugs can be supplied by other generics makers, the agency said.

The agency said it acted because of concerns about the “seriousness and extent” of violations of manufacturing standards at two Ranbaxy plants in India. The agency said it hasn’t found safety problems in drugs in the U.S.

There are a number of aspects of this story that are scary. First, I’m involved peripherally in the issues surrounding offshoring personal data to countries like India. The complexities of that should be reserved for another post, but a basic problem involves supervision and accountability. How can you tell that data has been misused or stolen? The complexities must be more severe in ensuring that drug makers have sound practices. I would imagine that US regulators cannot detect most violations of the rules.

Second, for our government to take action against a drug maker means that things were really screwed up. And if things were really screwed up, why should we believe that Ranbaxy-made drugs in the US are unaffected?

More broadly, is there any way for consumers to ensure that their generic or branded drugs are made in the US? I read every day about the Chinese Poison Train (next stop, you), and would like to limit my exposure to leaded or otherwise tainted foreign products.

Here is the FDA’s release on the Ranbaxy action, and the list of affected drugs.


  1. Arrrrrgh!!! I’m taking one of the drugs on that list– Loratadine, for allergies, under the Alavert brand name! Yes, I would really like to know where it was made.

  2. God dammit… the generic Zantac is my standard drug. And I know for certain that the Target branded generic I was taking when living in the US was made in India.

    Just glad that the generics I’m buying here in Canada are made in Canada… to my knowledge. =/

  3. Lovely. I take Loratadine as well. Does the packaging on the generic brands like Walgreens tell you where it was manufactured?

    On a related note, I have been taking a certain medication for about 10 years now. Just got it refilled and the pill looked completely different. Quite freaked me out until I read the packaging and description clearly and looked it up online.

  4. Actually, i’m in a bit more trouble than all of you as a sort of “point source emitter” if you will….arghhhhh

  5. Calli Arcale

    Loratidine? Crap. I still take that, even though I’m also taking Zyrtec now that it’s OTC.

    I know my generic omeprazole is made in Israel, so it’s probably okay (or at least not affected by this particular ban). Ah, the wonders of a global marketplace….

  6. As someone who seems to have no upper pyloric valve whatsoever, generic ranitidine (like LWF) is a necessity for me to sleep at night. This scares the living crap out of me, even more so because my dad switched to generic Zocor after the Vytorin fiasco and his meds come from Ranbaxy too.

  7. Hate to sound daft, but how does one find out the country of manufacture for a drug?

  8. The pharmacist who dispenses your pills has a big bottle of ‘generic drug X’ which he counts out into your individual prescription. I assume (though I confess, I’m not certain) that that big bottle will have printed on its label the company which manufactured the generic. That may or may not give you some idea of it’s country of origin, but I doubt the bottle would be labeled “pills made in India” or wherever.

  9. The problem with pinpointing a country of origin is that the active ingredients may come from one manufacturer and the inactive ingredients may come from another manufacturer in another country and then yet another manufacturer actually combines the ingredients into the pill/tablet/liquid/capsule/whatever format. So you are dealing with QA needs in multiple locations that may have differing regulatory requirements. BTW, I learned all of this while working for an association for people who deal with the regulatory factors for medical products (pharmaceuticals, medical devices, biologics, etc)

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