HHS Task Force: Rx Imports Not Now, Probably Not Ever

Dec 22, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

People living in the U.S. who travel to Canada to buy prescription medicines at pharmacies there are probably safe but a new Health and Human Services Department task force says
drugs ordered over the Internet may not work or, worse, may be hazardous to the health of those taking them.

“Practical experience and evidence shows that Americans are not always getting the same drugs as Canadian citizens when purchasing drugs from Canadian Internet sites or sites
purporting to be Canadian,” the HHS report said.

The Task Force on Drug Importation led by Surgeon General Richard Carmona came down against legalizing imports of prescription medicines.

Among its key findings for not supporting importation were concerns over safety, an estimate that the cost to taxpayers to administer such a program would be more than that saved
by individuals, concerns that importation could cause pharmaceutical companies to reduce investment in new medicines, intellectual property rights issues and liability concerns
for consumers, pharmacies, manufacturers and others.

The task force report also asserted in many cases purchasing a generic version of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated medicine is less expensive than buying the name
brand in Canada or elsewhere.

According to the report, prescription medicines purchased online or by travel to Canada was a $700 million business in 2003. The report estimates consumers imported another $700
million from the rest of the world either over the Internet or by bringing back medicines obtained in foreign countries.

Craig Fuller, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), applauded the task force’s findings in a released statement adding, “The protections
of a local pharmacist are lost and patients put themselves unnecessarily at risk when they import drugs. The report highlights several easy, proven ways for patients to save while
insuring their safety — such as asking a doctor or pharmacist for a generic alternative to a brand name drug, or using Medicare or other prescription drug discount cards.”

Moderator’s Comment: Does the HHS Task Force on Drug Importation’s report change your mind on whether the government should make prescription medicine
imports legal? What position should drug retailers take as an advocate for their customers?

George Anderson – Moderator

Download a pdf version of HHS report at http://www.hhs.gov/importtaskforce/

For the full text of Craig Fuller’s statement: http://www.nacds.org/wmspage.cfm?parm1=3634

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