Not What the Doctor Ordered; April 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Nemecek; 2 Page(s)
Richard Laing studies the international drug trade. But instead of monitoring the latest cocaine shipment from Colombia, he is watching to see who is sending antibiotics to Africa. Laing, a professor of International Public Health at Boston University, is one of many observers concerned about the types of supplies pharmaceutical companies ship to needy countries. Too often these drugs are inappropriate and even dangerous. "The problem is very widespread," Laing says, "and there is lots of money involved-- the value of these medications is in the hundreds of millions of dollars."
Although by and large drug donations serve a vital need, every year or so a donation gone awry makes headlines. Antibiotics from Eli Lilly and Company that were not approved for use by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization (WHO) were sent to Rwanda in 1994. In 1993, 11 Lithuanian women went temporarily blind after taking a veterinary medicine, made by Janssen Pharmaceutica, that doctors thought was a treatment for endometriosis--because the drugs were shipped with no instructions. In 1990, when Sudan was suffering from the ravages of war and famine, various companies sent donations of contact lens solution, appetite stimulants, expired antibiotics and drugs to treat high cholesterol.