Consumer understanding about dangers of inferior medicines

Roger Bate

Since we first worked with RxRights, a group to help underinsured Americans access cheaper medicines, we have undertaken occasional consumer surveys to understand where consumers get their information about medicines, where they buy those medicines and how they assess medicine quality. We use a mixture of surveymonkey online surveys and directly administered surveys.

Our latest survey shows an increasing understanding by US patients of the risks associated with drugs made in China and India. Some of the more sophisticated consumers even realize that domestically compiled medicines, if containing ingredients from Asia, may also be compromised. Their view of domestically made medicines is better, even when Asian ingredients have been used – the more sophisticated even identified that domestic companies may be able to spot problems with imported ingredients.
146 consumers in Philadelphia were surveyed in July 2016.

Source of purchases
Pharmacy 84%
Online 9%
Other 7%

Source of info on drugs
Physician 60%
Online 28%
Other 12%

Worried about quality
Yes 12%
No 80%
Don’t Know 8%

Why worried?
Asian meds/ingredient 26%
Distrust all producers 31% Don’t Know 47%

Compared to earlier research, consumers are still buying most of their medicines from local bricks and mortar pharmacies, but nearly one in ten buys online (we will re-address the issue of online buying in later reports). Most importantly, roughly one in eight consumers is worried about drug quality. Most consumers don’t know exactly why they are worried, but those that did identified distrust of industry as a whole, and especially distrust of Indian and Chinese quality, both ingredients and finished products.
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