In Part 1 of this article, our resident Shaman/Pharmacist Robert Gosstray looked at the health perils of generic drugs. Part 2 continues to examine these cheap drugs and their role in the rorting of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in Australia and the rise of huge, impersonal discount pharmacies.
PBS Fraud And Rorting
The PBS scheme is open to fraud and rorting with many pharmacies claiming for drugs they haven’t actually dispensed. This requires signature forging which is seldom detected. I have some sympathy for many pharmacists who mildly exploit the system to help some of their poorer patients, or to redress the inevitable bureaucratic wrongs and anomalies that sometimes deprive them of a just income.
An Example Of Fraud
I will give just one example here out of many ways to exploit the PBS. I heard of a pharmacist being phoned by a local doctor, who asked if there was a way an elderly and poor pensioner could acquire a ventilating machine for his worsening asthma.
These machines cost up to $300 or $400 and are not subsidised. The pharmacist suggested the doctor could write a few rather pricy prescriptions for him, which he would “forget” to pick up. This would cover the cost of the machine, which was then donated to the patient, who never knew. On the face of it, this is fraud, but I believe it was simply a way of providing a vital service which should have been provided to him anyway.
Like all things, there are degrees of fraud, and there is no black and white. I know of many pharmacists who abuse the system for their own benefit, with some (the really blatant ones) getting caught eventually but most continuing on their merry way.
Trend To Huge, Discount Pharmacies Typical Of Greedy Consumerism
The trend nowadays is towards huge, discounting pharmacy chains, which I distrust because they are the real (and damaging) “drug-pushers”, they are impersonal, they have a vested interest in generics and they are typical of the savage and ugly face of greed and consumerism.
On-Line Pharmacies Are Fraught With Danger
There is also a trend towards on-line pharmacies (quite often run by the same warehouse chains), which has been shown in the US to be fraught with danger. It has been stated that 95% of on-line pharmacies there are phonies— that is, they are actually based overseas. There is no guarantee of safety, with many of the drugs supplied being cheap copies with fake packaging, altered expiry dates and dubious sources. The FDA in America has closed many of them down but they change their name and immediately re-open.
Expiry Dates Are A Scare Campaign
On the issue of expiry dates, this has been a scare campaign and a rip-off also. The latest research shows that nearly all solid drugs stay stable and potent for decades after the nominal expiry date.
The whole system (which applies to food too, of course) has suited the big end of town manufacturers who have relied on timid Governments, fear of litigation (no wonder everyone hates lawyers), and propaganda, to induce fear into the general public about going a micro-second past the magic date.
I had a cavalier dis-regard for this system and, with the exception of aspirin, adrenalin and some anti-biotics, would provide expired drugs (at no cost) to friends and relatives (and even me).