Open up your bathroom medicine cabinet and you will see what most of us see; generic prescription drugs. There was a time when we all had to ask for the generic versions of name-brand drugs in order to save some of our hard earned money, but things are different now as most health care plans insist on charging a large deductible for brand name drugs or will not pay for them at all if a generic version is available.
As a society, we place our trust in physicians, pharmacists and the federal government that these drugs are safe and properly labeled with known side effects, even though many generics drugs are manufactured overseas in facilities beyond the regulation and oversight of our national medical, governmental and legal systems.
I never knew how dangerous that was until I shot pictures for a New York Times story, “Generic Drugs Prove Resistant to Damage Suits.”
Last year, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that drug companies who develop and manufacture proprietary, name-brand drugs are not responsible for the labeling of generic equivalents of their products manufactured by other, often foreign, companies. As a result of this ruling, pharmaceutical companies, who have listed the side effects and known medical complications associated with taking their name-brand drugs, cannot be sued or held responsible by injured patients who have taken improperly labeled generic versions of their drugs.
I photographed Camille Baruch, an 18 year-old girl who had developed gastrointestinal disease after taking the generic version of the anti-acne drug Accutane when she was 12 years old. Eight surgeries later, including the removal of her large intestine, Camille faces a lifetime of debilitating health problems.
Her parents, doctors and lawyers are powerless to seek damages on her behalf.
Camille put a human face on this frightening and compelling subject and bravely agreed to let me continue to follow her and tell her story. I look forward to spending time with her in the coming months.