The US Military is So Worried About Generic Pills That it Reportedly Wants to do its Own Testing to Make Sure They’re Safe

June 12, 2023
A service member practices filling a prescription order during a pharmacy outpatient class.

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The U.S. military is reportedly planning to take extra steps to test the quality of the generic drugs it buys for service members and their families.

To do that, the Department of Defense is talking with Valisure, a lab that specializes in checking the quality of pharmaceuticals, Bloomberg’s Anna Edney and Riley Griffin reported. Valisure has a track record of sniffing out problems with medicines as well as contamination in consumer products like shampoos and sunscreen.

The quality of the U.S. drug supply has been in focus in recent years. Crucial medicines were recalled due to contamination with potentially cancer-causing ingredients, and common pills like antibiotics to ADHD medicines have seen shortages. Bloomberg reported in May that the White House has assembled a team to tackle shortages and quality issues with generic medications.

A spokesperson for Valisure said no program has been launched and declined to comment on a relationship with the Department of Defense. The DOD didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.

A lab with a track record of finding problems

In an interview, Valisure CEO David Light said his company’s track record of finding problems in generic drugs shows that more testing is needed. At the same time, he said that individuals should keep taking their prescriptions

“Overall we have safe and effective medications in the U.S.,” Light told Insider. “But it is troublesome. It is something to be thoughtful about.”

The US Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating medications to ensure they are safe and effective. The agency oversees both new, experimental drugs that are looking to get approved for the first time, as well as generic drugs that may have been on the market for decades. The FDA sets and enforces rules for the factories that manufacture drugs and conducts inspections.

“Protecting patients is the highest priority of the FDA and Americans can be confident in the quality of the products the FDA approves,” FDA spokesperson Jeremy Kahn said in an emailed statement. “The FDA continues to work to build a safe, secure and agile drug supply chain so that American patients have the medications they need – medications that have been carefully reviewed by the FDA for safety, effectiveness and quality.”

A call for more transparency on FDA inspections and drug manufacturing

Mike Ganio, the senior director for pharmacy practice and quality at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, said the FDA does a good job of making sure the US drug supply is safe and works. ASHP represents pharmacists who work in hospitals and outpatient clinics and accredits pharmacist training programs.

“I have family who take generic drugs, I take generic drugs,” he said, adding, “I don’t get concerned and I don’t tell them to be concerned.”

Still, he said the FDA should release information on their inspections and other findings more quickly, and with less information redacted. He also said there’s a need for more transparency on who is manufacturing the pharmaceutical ingredients that go into different pills.

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