Prediction Nine of our 2013 Predictions for Global Supply Chains (research report available for free download within our Research Center) noted that higher and more expensive incidents of counterfeit products within and across supply chains will finally motivate industry to step-up mitigation efforts.
Last year, one of the more visible aspects of this problem were incidents of counterfeit versions of the cancer life-saving drug Avastin making their way across global supply chains. In a July 2012 commentary, Supply Chain Matters highlighted The Wall Street Journal’s investigative report that traced how fake versions of Avastin were procured and distributed through a network of international distributors. The global distribution scheme opened the door to sourcing of the drug from countries where regulatory controls are not as strict, and where introduction of fake medicines into the supply chain are more easily accomplished.
On Wednesday of this week, The Wall Street Journal once again reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had to once again alert physicians and healthcare providers to yet another counterfeit batch of Avastin. This latest warning involves distributor Pharmalogical, which also does business as Medical Device King and Taranis Medical, which shipped two batches of Altuzan, the Turkish branded version of Avastin, to U.S. based healthcare providers. It was reported that at least one batch contained no active ingredient. According to the WSJ, the FDA was unable to identify which doctors purchased this batch of medicine. The article also makes note that U.S. law-enforcement agencies and drug manufacturers are aggressively pursuing drug distributors that sell unapproved foreign drugs, and that two new guilty pleas have come forward in recent weeks. One was the case of a San Diego based oncologist who pleaded guilty to buying an unapproved foreign version of the cancer drug Rituxan from an overseas distributor, and then bill Medicare for the full price of the drug. In another case, a Florida based distributor pleaded guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud in the importation of $7 million worth of the cancer drugs Taxotere and Eloxatin.
In 2012, we called for all members of pharmaceutical and drug supply chains, industry regulators to bring serious attention on processes related to the sourcing, supplier monitoring and product authenticity of drug supplies. We neglected to specifically mention unscrupulous distributors’ healthcare providers who are pursuing business self-interests over the safety of patients.
The good news is that some progress is being made. In 2012, U.S. enforcement efforts directed at suspected illegal drug trafficking involving prescription drug abuse, ensnarled supply chain players such as major distributor Cardinal Health, drug retailers CVS and Walgreens. In the remaining months of 2013 we hope to be featuring more commentaries noting progress in these areas.
Over on the Horses for Sources Blog, Phil Fersht has penned a commentary, Fooled by Forbes’ fantasy fiction?, which Supply Chain Matters would like to also echo. In his commentary, Phil calls attention to publisher Forbes Magazine and its “BrandVoice” columns to blatantly promote various technology products from technology providers such as Oracle and SAP. Phil notes: “There is no sponsored content indication anywhere on the BrandVoice articles, not even a company logo at the top of the pieces. Moreover, midway through last year, the column title was changed from AdVoice to BrandVoice, further blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. The list of praiseworthy articles is endless, and (seemingly) very convincing to the general reader, who is being fooled into thinking they are reading real journalism.” Phil provides a couple of specific examples for readers.
The reason that this commentary resonated with us is that we also have noted these fine lines of difference among certain business and supply chain publications which feature articles that pretend to be independent journalism, but smack too much of vendor marketing language without alerting readers to a business arrangement. In his commentary, Phil notes a source indicating that the cost of entry for Forbes AdVoice is $1 million. Once more, a reference to an AdAge Digital article also questions the effectiveness of this format in generating prospective customer leads. This author was floored by both the scope and implied arrogance of that number. How many technology vendors have a marketing budget large enough to support a $1 million program with a single business publication? Very few.
Phil further notes: “ No, they (AdVoice) don’t promise to make their content appear independent. They position it as another marketing channel where editorial and advertorial co-mingle and co-exist. They are, in fact, quite proud of the hits BrandVoice articles get relative to straight editorial. They like that blending of content.”
As bloggers, we are required by regulatory guidelines to disclose any prior business relationships that may be associated to the content of a particular blog posting. Readers of this blog will note that whenever Supply Chain Matters posts a commentary related to a named sponsor or existing client, we include such a disclosure. The one exception we make is in announcing a blog sponsor, where it should be clear to our readers that sponsors have a relationship to that commentary.
We hold our sponsors and clients to higher standards, meaning that independent thought leadership is far different than the latest marketing brief. Should not top-tier business and supply chain periodicals do the same? After all, you the reader, need to be aware of what is independent vs. paid or tutored opinion.
We echo that these practices are indeed a slippery slope, one that those with big pockets believe will influence you, the reader and prospective buyer of technology products and services
Cudos to Phil Ferscht for raising such awareness and outrage.
Readers are welcomed to voice their own opinions as well.
Founder and Executive Editor