The United States Food and Drug Administration and the Indian Government join forces in “Operation Broadsword”. No, it’s not a trailer for an action thriller, it’s a serious collaboration between two governmental entities to limit the import and sale of illicit drugs to consumers, detailed in FDA’s news release on February 18, 2020 (here).
The collaboration included not only FDA and the Indian Government, but also spanned the breadth of governmental entities to summon the support of the Office of Criminal Investigations, Forensic Chemistry Center, and US Customs and Border Protection, among others. This was a big deal. Targeting packages at an International Mail Facility between only Jan 28 through Jan 30, the operation was able to stop approximately 500 shipments of illicit drug shipments from reaching US consumers. That is a pretty stunning number for just a few days.
Keep in mind, the point here is not to limit a consumer’s medication and pricing options; the intent is to ensure consumers are choosing from prescription medications that have been put the through the wringer of a proper approval process, including scientific and clinical review. The mission is to intercept illegal products – some of them unapproved, potentially sub-potent or contaminated, containing ingredients and /or impurities at levels that are potentially dangerous.
The steep number of shipments caught and stopped during this small window in time is a potent reminder of the importance of constant vigilance in this area. Just as important is the collaboration between countries and the agreement amongst our governments that we are all invested in ensuring traceability and integrity of supply chain of medicines in order to protect public health, from the active pharmaceutical ingredient and excipients to the finished product. EVERYTHING is available to anyone, anywhere. Ordering online is the new way for just about anything we want or need. Getting subpar quality on a pair of jeans is annoying, but subpar quality on a medication can be life threatening.
We applaud the US and Indian collaboration and hope for farther reaching partnerships to help ensure safety and quality of medicines for patients in the future.