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Klicker: Ensure quality by keeping printed pharmaceutical instructions

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

At EyeC America, we design the quality control systems used primarily in pharmaceutical printing. You might not think of us as a health care company, but the products we inspect go to doctors and to patients, which in turn provide them with essential information about the medications they are using. In the U.S., our headquarters are in St. Charles, where we are proud to have been part of the local community since 2009.

Unfortunately, a proposal in Congress would almost completely eliminate the paper instructions that accompany prescriptions, which the law currently requires drug companies to provide. This bad idea is part of an otherwise noncontroversial effort to reduce counterfeit medication called the Safeguarding America’s Pharmaceuticals Act, legislation that we and many others in our industry support. Instead of requiring useful and sometimes lifesaving instructions that travel with medication, a section of this bill would force doctors, pharmacists and patients to rely mainly on the Internet to obtain this necessary information.

This is a bad idea even in areas that enjoy fast, reliable Internet access. Put simply, information about how to take medicine should stay with the medicine. Of course, not everyone has Internet access. Millions of Americans – especially seniors and other vulnerable populations likely to take prescription medication – can’t afford or don’t have access to the Internet or don’t feel comfortable using it for obtaining essential information. 

Depriving these Americans of paper pharmaceutical instructions creates a potentially deadly gulf between haves and have-nots, especially during times of Internet outage or natural disaster.

This proposal hits at the heart of what my company does – help print shops and pharmaceutical companies guarantee that these instructions are printed legibly and without error. The technology we provide checks every copy of a particular pharmaceutical insert to ensure it is both FDA-compliant and free of misprints, smudges or other glitches. How can patients and doctors have the same peace of mind when these often complex materials are accessed online without anything close to resembling current quality control measures?

Moreover, this is a jobs issue. In addition to our company, there are several others in Chicagoland that span our industry. If this proposal were to become law, it could lead to a 10 percent to 15 percent loss in revenue for our company. Nationwide, our industry employs over 10,000 workers, including 1,000 in Illinois. It hardly seems advisable to enact such an untested and dangerous provision when it could also result in serious job and economic loss.

EyeC America is proud to provide this simple, reliable and time-tested method of helping people preserve their health. Our workers and community would suffer if this provision were to become law. Though it has already passed the House, the provision is not included in similar legislation currently being considered in the Senate, which I hope remains the case.

In its efforts to reduce counterfeit medications, Congress should not restrict the vital information patients, doctors and pharmacists receive about those very medications.

• Dr. Juergen Klicker is president of St. Charles-based EyeC America, which makes quality-control and inspection systems for pharmaceutical paper, including patient information leaflets, folding cartons and labels. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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