Quality in the Generic Pharmaceutical Market

Catherine Ishitani, PhD Candidate at the Wharton School

Abstract: Asymmetric information about quality characterizes many important markets, including in healthcare, banking, real estate, and used goods. Without intervention, quality in these markets can easily deteriorate. Vertical intermediaries, such as distributors and retailers, may play a powerful role in disciplining quality when consumers are difficult to inform. I study the effects of informed intermediaries on quality and welfare in the context of US generic pharmaceuticals. This market is economically important, characterized by extreme levels of asymmetric information, and experienced a sharp increase in recalls and shortages after 2009.