The new Democratic controlled Congress has begun hearing scores of bills sponsored by the pro-generics groups. This prompted me to ask the question, what ever happened to Able Laboratories?
Able Labs was a generics company in New Jersey that manufactured mostly generic products. On May 27, 2005, the FDA announced that it was shutting down Able Labs ( FDA press release and official warning letter ). Over 15 million prescriptions were filled in 2004 for products manufactured by Able Labs, exposing thousands, and perhaps millions, of patients to sub-standard medications. The generic company Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. has purchased Able’s assets in bankruptcy proceedings and has re-started Able’s operations under its name.
This single dramatic example highlights one of the major pitfalls with the generics industry in America. When a person gets a prescription filled for a medication and the pharmacy dispenses a generic, the consumer is given no choice which manufacturer they purchase from. A consumer could get a medication from one of the reputable generics firms…or they could end up with a product from the next Able Labs. Which would you rather have?
With billions of dollars in patented, branded products going off-patent in the coming years, many more generics manufacturers will be producing many more generic drugs. Many of these products are going to extremely profitable for generics firms. With this kind of money up for grabs, it remains to be seen how ethical these generics companies are going be.
If the generics industry wants to advance healthcare in America, they should cast out companies like Able Labs and others with questionable business/manufacturing practices and push for legislation requiring that consumers be given the choice of selecting the manufacturer of the products they are to receive. Consumers have that choice in the grocery store when they purchase generic products, why not have that choice when it comes to something more serious like their health?