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Drug companies dump on Bosnia



They say you should never look a gift horse in the mouth, but take a look into this rotten deal. During the bloody war in Bosnia, various drug companies donated tons of their medicines to treat the war's wounded and the ill. Good for them, right? Well, not so good when you realize that at least half of the 35,000 tons of the drugs they donated turned out to be bad — outdated and unusable supplies that the companies essentially were dumping. Reuters news service reports that some of the expiration dates on the drugs dated way back to World War II, some had unreadable labels, and some were for diseases like leprosy that don't even exist in this region. Why were the companies sending these worthless supplies to Bosnia? Money, honey! It costs $2,000 a ton to properly dispose of medicines. With at least 17,000 tons of bad drugs shipped to Bosnia, that's $34 million that these companies passed off. The World Health Organization is having to build incinerators to burn those drugs. With the chaos created by the Bosnian war, the companies doing the dumping apparently knew there would be inadequate record-keeping to trace the bad drugs back to them. So, not only could they get away with it, but they also probably got a tax deduction for their worthless contributions, since medical donations are counted as 'humanitarian gifts.' Some humanitarians, huh? Medical reformers are calling for punitive fines on companies that dump drugs in the future. They also want a system put in place that allows tax breaks only after drug donations have been certified by health officials as usable. For me, these reforms don't go far enough. I think any executive of a company caught dumping should be taken into the war zone, forced to take a random selection of his bad drugs, then be left there to the tender mercies of the people he sought to victimize.

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