NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Risks From Canadian Drug Purchases

September 15, 2003

The Bush administration is pressing ahead with plans to shut down the numerous chains of Internet stores that sell illegally-reimported Canadian drugs to American seniors. The Justice Department said the stores violate federal law by helping U.S. consumers import drugs from Canada, whereas only manufacturers are allowed to bring medicines into the country.

According to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation, the companies aren't just violating the law, but also endangering the health of customers:

  • FDA agents posing as customers ordered Serzone, a powerful antidepressant from a pharmacy chain over the Internet, but what they received appeared to be counterfeit Serzone, made in some country other than the United States or Canada.
  • FDA officials bought Accutane, an acne drug that can causes serious birth defects and is not available to women until after they've been tested to ensure they're not pregnant -- all the Web sites shipped Accutane, some of which appeared to be counterfeit, without warning customers about birth defects, or inquiring about pregnancy.
  • The FDA alerted health regulators in Canada that some of their pharmacies were shipping foreign-made drugs that purport to be Canadian-made.

According to FDA Associate Commissioner William Hubbard, these are the real-world examples we see with these drugs. Advocates of Canadian drugs claim they are good drugs, just cheaper. However, often this is not the case and safety concerns abound.

Source: Associated Press, "Justice Dept. Moves to Close Broker of Canada Drugs," New York Times, September 9, 2003.


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