Rite Aid: Where are our Prescription Drugs Made?

Product safety is one of my biggest motivators for seeking out American made products. In fact, my challenge was inspired by my commitment to ensuring the baby products I choose for my son are free of toxins. While I was pregnant the massive recalls of toys and other children’s products made in China weighed heavily on my mind. Like any new mother, I scrutinized every item I added to our registry. I read reviews, investigated ingredients and researched safety reports. But another variable was thrown into the mix, country of origin. If the regulation of our health and beauty products is sub-par, what about the medications and other health products millions of American consumers use every day?

Item found: Soap, vitamins, Tums, Neti-pot, cotton balls, toothbrushes, deodorant, cosmetics, greeting cards, coloring books, food items

Most common countries: China, USA, Japan, Israel

Corporate info: As one of the country’s largest chain suppliers of health products, Rite Aid has all the typical brands in their inventory. There appears to be little or no regulation on disclosure of country of origin. Many products only list where they were distributed from, which is undoubtabley somewhere in the USA. When I asked an associate for help in finding out where a bottle of infant pain reliever was made she did not know, but was “pretty sure they are made here.” For more information she suggested the customer service line.

There a polite representative explained that they do not have access to all of their inventory information, but if given the bar code number of any store product they are able to tell you were it was made. Within a few moments she was able to look up the medication and let me know it was from Germany. Another interesting observation I made while strolling the aisles of Rite Aid was that comparable brands for different items were often made in different countries at similar price points. For example, a children’s Reach toothbrush I found was made in the USA, while a similar brush by Oral B was made in China.

Overall: I’ve explored the issue of the lack of regulations for bath and beauty products in the past. My rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t eat it, I try not to put it on my, or my family’s body. The skin is an organ, so everything we apply to it is absorbs into our system. But I never considered the issue of medications, the majority of which are taken by mouth directly into our bodies.

According to the FDA, 13% of generic prescription drugs are made in the USA, 43% in China and 39% in India. I guess the remaining 5% includes places like Germany, where the generic baby Tylenol came from, and Japan, where the generic Tylenol from CVS I have in my medicine cabinet was made. These over the counter medications at least contain labels with names and contact information for their distributors. When you get a prescription medication filled, generic or brand name, you are given a bottle with a few warning labels and no additional information regarding it’s ingredients, safety testing or where it was made.

According to a NYT article in 2009, the last major drug manufacturing plant producing antibiotics in the US closed in 2004. Those interviewed blamed this on the expense of manufacturing in the US where FDA regulations are tighter and inspections are frequent. The FDA is responsible for inspecting the quality and safety of finished products like imported pharmaceuticals, but it falls to the exporting country’s government to complete the inspections on the ingredients and manufacturing process. The information regarding the sourcing of medication by large American pharmaceutical conglomerates is not usually available because of their desire to keep their trade secrets in a competitive market.

Millions of Americans take prescription drugs every day. Regardless of the politics of big pharma or the debate about over-medicating, many of these medications are life saving. No diabetic should have to consider forgoing their insulin because they are concerned about the safety of their vial. I am not familiar with the regulations in this area, but clearly we need more transparency. If more of these medications were made in the USA and subject to the FDA regulations and inspections, this might be a great start to a safer prescription supply for everyone.

Have you ever checked to see where your medications were made? How safe do you feel taking medications made in countries like China? What do you think is the best way to ensure a safe supply of medication for Americans?

Comments

  1. says

    That is a great post. I have noticed that drug stores did not label where there products are from. It seems like a simple law can change that.

  2. says

    This was an awesome post. I am a T1 the worst kind (Diabetic type 1). Talk about jumping on the horn to answering some of questions because of your post (you did good)…

    I really hope you do a write up about spices – we use a lot of spices as medication because our goal is to pure with our bodies too…

    • madeinusachallenge says

      Thanks for the idea. Using spices, herbal remedies, etc. can be great health alternatives. I’ll have to look into the labeling regulations (if any) and find out where they are being made.

  3. says

    Thought-provoking post!

    I had not thought much about where my medications were manufactured, although my parents head down to Mexico to buy the meds they need, which always makes me a little uneasy.

    ~Tui

    • madeinusachallenge says

      Wow, I know people buy meds from Canada to save money, but I’ve never heard Mexico. I’m assuming your in the Southwest. I would be a bit leery of them as well. If you are able to check out the labels on your parent’s meds, let us know what you find out. Hope they are well!

      • Edie says

        I have just learned the mail order co. CVS/CAREMARK is sending out medications from other countries. Very sneaky. The medication Myrbertriq for exa prescribed for overactive bladder processes in the USA, the box, the manufacture, the packaging and something else in four different states. I learned however, that the ingredients for the medication is sent to USA from Japan! This country is more contaminated and radio active then any country. Finally, the USA has proven to have very low and ineffective standards of protecting our people from tainted products and medicines included. How can this treachery be stopped? In fact, how can foreign supplies being sent into our country be stopped?

  4. says

    Great post and very thought provoking…I’ve even thought of what they package in…is it BPA free, etc. Let alone the “preservatives” used. Thank you for posting!

    • madeinusachallenge says

      Great point!! I hadn’t even thought of the packaging. Especially with liquid solutions, I would def be concerned about toxins leeching out of the plastic. Something to look into for sure.

  5. Amanda says

    This is very scary. Isn’t there a big controversy over people getting their drugs from Canada? Why, if the stuff here in the USA is being imported from China & India anyway??

    • madeinusachallenge says

      Amanda, I think people are purchasing their prescriptions from Canada to save money. I believe it is cheaper due to the markup of meds here in the US, or perhaps related to insurance issues. I’ll have to look into that as well!

  6. says

    Sarah, I want to point out one exception to the Made in USA rule that should be made. Pharmaceuticals are often, if they are made in the EU (pretty much anywhere), or Israel, have actually much stricter guidelines to follow than in the US. This even extends to some packaged foods incidentally. I live in many places and travel a lot and when in Lebanon, for instance, I will choose a European product over an American product if these are my only two choices, for exported food because the EU product has stricter health codes for exports (including GMO labelling).
    I understand buying locally is important, but I would rather a drug be made in the EU or Israel ANY DAY and twice on Sundays rather than in the US, and most assuredly not China (unless it is actually a Chinese herb) or India where the standards are much more lax.
    Jacqueline recently posted..7 Diet Wreckers: Wolves in Food’s Clothing

    • madeinusachallenge says

      Great point, Jacqueline. I’ve actually have found several instances when products from the EU are safer/better regulated. I don’t know much about this area, so I appreciate the feedback. I did notice that quite a few products were made in Israel, which is something I rarely see. Very interesting!

  7. says

    What great insight and information! Good to know that you can call Customer Service and get the information about where the product was made.

    Thank you for stumbling my post. I am stumbling this one so more people will be aware.

  8. Pam says

    I searched this topic after noticing a 30-day single dose package of two generic medications were not made in the US. One was manufactured in India and the other in Croatia (guess that’s part of the 5%). I haven’t spoken to my doctor or a pharmacist yet, but like others am concerned about the safety and efficacy of the medication. Since it is a large pharmaceutical company I wonder what takes precedence: product safety or increased profits.

  9. Jill says

    Thank you for this. I enjoy your posts and they are very informative. This really gets to me as well. Prescriptions are SO important to SO many individuals. The fact that our amazing country cannot produce them on our own and that we have to use a 3rd party from ANOTHER country altogether – it’s ridiculous honestly. Personally, I’m trying my best to NOT buy all those other medicated pills anymore (Advil, Excedrin, etc)……..I’m trying to stop taking any pill to ease my discomforts (headaches, muscle soreness, etc) and try more homeopathic & natural remedies. I know they’re out there and I’ll find them! P.S. I would also be interested in the above comment about more info on spices. Thanks again

  10. Claude says

    through Canadian pharmacies to save money, telling us we cannot trust the drugs. Yet these companies are going to, “mostly” china to make cheap drugs. These drugs from China are not regulated as stringently as they are in this country or Canada. In fact China has very few rules and regulations for controlling the drugs we are putting into our systems, and the FDA does little to oversee their production. Our government is failing us miserably. It’s no surprise so many things we import are later found to be toxic or downright dangerous. Our government and corporations have allowed China to gain a choke-hold on the generic drug industry, and that’s a shame. We have no idea what we are putting into our systems, and actually have no choice,……….good luck.

    • Claude says

      Re-post of above comment first line;………….Our government discourages us from buying through Canadian pharmacies to save money, telling us we cannot trust the drugs………..

  11. Perry harris says

    I have had a severe cold for over 10 days. My doctor prescribed a zithromyacin six pack . I took it as directed and I still have bad cough so the script was renewed for a second six pack dose. Today I took the time to look at the label on the a zithromyacin box and there was no indication of the country of origin however on the individual tablets the wrapper say MADE in Croatia. Nice! How do I know this stuff even works??e

  12. says

    I don’t trust american drug company quality any more than I do any where else. My drugs come mostly from India and I have been very pleased over the years.

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