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Capitol Health Call
September 12, 2012

Drug Gray Market

JAMA. 2012;308(10):964. doi:10.1001/2012.jama.11530

A Congressional report offers insight into the workings of the gray market for pharmaceuticals and how some unscrupulous businesses take advantage of drug shortages. The report, “Shining Light on the ‘Gray Market,’” was released July 25 by Sen John D. Rockefeller IV (D, WVa), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (http://tinyurl.com/crl4bhl).

Gray markets are businesses operating outside of authorized distribution networks (typically manufacturer to wholesaler to dispenser) that charge exorbitant prices for scarce but desperately needed medications. The authors of the report found that in more than two-thirds of the 300 drug distribution chains they investigated, prescription drugs “leaked” into the gray market through pharmacies. Some pharmacies were found to have sold their entire inventories of a particular drug into the gray market.