Safety Is the Priority of Drug Importation

These days, everyone is talking about the painfully high cost of drugs in the United States. One immediate solution to these high costs is the importation of safe and affordable prescription drugs from licensed Canadian pharmacies. The common theme that underlies any discussion of importing daily prescription medication is safety.

Indeed, you will find “safe and affordable” is the most common phrase that we use to relate what we hear from our constituents every day. Yet, Big Pharma is trying to convince the American public that we have different definitions of safety. Wrong.

Over the past 15 years, millions of Americans have imported their daily prescription medications from safe, licensed Canadian pharmacies. Why? Because they know that they can get the same medication from Canada as in the United States, but at prices they can afford.

Rogue online pharmacies selling counterfeit medication are a threat to public health. There is no disagreement that these sites must be identified quickly and shut down permanently. Proposed importation legislation would provide a strong defense against these rogues.

So where is the gap in agreement?

Big Pharma does not want you to know that Canada sources its medications from the same manufacturers and same plants as the United States. This means that there is no difference in the quality of prescription drugs sold in the United States compared to Canada.

In fact, Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute worked with the National Bureau of Economic Research on a study to assess the quality and price of drugs purchased through online pharmacies. Among the 211 drugs sampled from certified online pharmacies, all passed quality-control testing.

Despite Big Pharma’s highly exaggerated claims, the regulatory system in Canada is equivalent to the regulatory system in the United States. This means that the supply chain — the system that moves prescription drugs from manufacturer to pharmacy to end user — is just as safe in Canada as it is in the United States. Canadian consumers are taking these exact same Canadian drugs without widespread safety issues as Big Pharma would have you believe.

Here’s something else they do not want you to know — current legislation would create a framework for regulatory oversight of the importation of drugs from Canada, and therefore would enable the U.S. government to help prevent counterfeits from entering the country. Many of the safety arguments against drug importation hinge on this lack of regulatory oversight, yet proposed legislation would require oversight by the U.S. government.

So, then the question becomes: Why are our biggest opponents against drug importation legislation? The classic litmus test of “follow the money” provides a painfully clear answer. The price of prescription drugs is higher in the United States than any other country in the world. There are no requirements for pricing drugs in the United States, pharmaceutical companies can set prices based on what they anticipate the market will be forced to pay, out of desperate necessity.

Therein lies the problem — American patients are forced to foot the bill or pay with their pain and suffering, or in the worst cases — they pay with their lives because of an inability to afford their medications.

As lawmakers struggle to address the issue of high drug prices — facing intense resistance from pharmaceutical manufacturers — allowing personal prescription importation from licensed Canadian pharmacies is the simplest, most immediate solution to provide Americans with reasonable access to safe, affordable prescription medications.


Tracy Cooley is executive director of the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation.

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