Recently OB-GYN Associates, a respected women's health care practice with offices in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, admitted to Rhode Island Department of Health officials that it had implanted in patients birth control intrauterine devices (IUDs) apparently manufactured in Canada and not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Soon, other Rhode Island doctors admitted using the same unapproved IUDs in their practices.
The revelations pointed to a number of bad actors. The doctors at OB-GYN bought the Canadian IUDs at half the usual cost, implanted them, and billed patients' insurance companies for the full cost of an FDA-approved IUD.
The IUD contretemps highlighted the pharmaceutical industry's greed, too: there is no reason why a drug manufactured in Canada, France, or Great Britain with the same formula and ingredients as the American equivalent sells for up to 200 percent more in the States. (US manufacturers recently hiked IUD prices from $300 to $700.)
And the health department doesn't look great here, either: officials apparently want thousands of women to panic, change their birth control methods, and incur more expenses.
But one also has to question the practices of the FDA. The IUDs in question apparently work efficiently, are made by the same company making the US version, and have not been said to cause complications.
It is naive and fiscally irresponsible to assume that drugs or procedures used by thousands of people in Switzerland, Canada, or Sweden for years are unsafe for American patients. The redundancy of FDA trials on already-tested drugs from other countries wastes time and money and burdens American consumers with unnecessary costs.
Patients deserve freedom from greedy pharmaceutical and insurance companies — and from an FDA fanning those flames. There is excessive waste in the current system, chauvinistic disregard for global science, and, frankly, too much opportunity for pharmaceutical money to "change hands" just to keep profits soaring.
Let's admit that what works in the Quebec uterus will work just as well in the Pawtucket uterus.