NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Drug Importation

October 29, 2003

Springfield, Mass., has enrolled more than 1,000 city employees in a program that imports drugs from a Canadian wholesaler called CanaRx Services, Inc. And now the governors of Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota are considering similar plans for their state employees.

Supporters of importation claim that drugs that are good enough for Canadians are good enough for Americans. But there are factors of which they may not be aware, says Merrill Matthews:

  • Under Canadian law, a pharmaceutical wholesaler who isn't selling to Canadians isn't regulated by Health Canada, the agency that regulates prescription drugs.
  • They are, in essence, unregulated foreign mail drops that can sell to unsuspecting Americans drugs made anywhere in the world.

To be sure, there are reputable mail order prescription drug wholesalers and patients can generally trust a reputable Canadian pharmacy with a licensed pharmacist. The problem Americans face is how to tell the good pharmacies (and especially online pharmacies) from the bad ones - or more to the point, how to tell the good drugs from the bad ones.

The Food and Drug Administration has dramatically ramped up efforts to crack down on groups -- which include organized crime and terrorists -- involved in the production, sale and shipment of counterfeit drugs. Thus, when a city or state employee is harmed by imported drugs, trial lawyers will have a good case that the elected officials promoting the program acted negligently.

Source: Merrill Matthews Jr. (Institute for Policy Innovation), "Drug Importation Plan Risks Mass. Mayor's Legal Health," Investor's Business Daily, October 29, 2003.


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