Drug Importation: Dangerous for Patients, Consumers, and American Communities

BIOtech Now
Andrew Segerman

Writing for The Hill, Steve Forbes, Forbes Media Chairman and Editor in Chief, delivered a simple message to the American people about the implications of drug importation: “Your health could be put in unnecessary danger soon.”

Let’s rewind to July, when Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar directed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to establish a drug importation working group. Azar stated that he was open to a variety of solutions, as long as they are “effective, safe for patients and respect choice, innovation, and access.” But as the facts show, importing medicines from abroad do not meet any of these requirements.

As Forbes points out, four former FDA commissioners who served under both President Bush and President Obama had a front row seat into the dangerous, counterfeit global medicine marketplace which is alarmingly deceptive.

“[The] vast majority of internet sites that advertise as being Canadian are actually based in South America, Eastern Europe and Russia,” the group stated.

It’s often assumed that buying drugs from highly developed Western countries like Canada poses little to no safety risks. This claim, however, cannot be further from reality.

Sure, the Canadian government works to ensure the safety and authenticity of medicines entering their market that are intended for use by patients in Canada, but they do not apply those standards for medicines intended only for export. The Canadian government has even stated, “Health Canada does not assure that products being sold to U.S. citizens are safe, effective, and of high quality, and does not intend to do so in the future.”

These concerns are also backed by a number of current and former law enforcement officials who have sounded similar alarms about allowing drugs from foreign countries to flow into our communities.

The National Sheriff’s Association stated that importing medicines from abroad would “jeopardize law enforcement’s ability to protect the public health; threaten the safety of our drug supply; and endanger law enforcement officers, their canines, and other first responders across America.”

Louis Freeh, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, added that drug importation could “force law enforcement agencies to make tough prioritization decisions that leave the safety of the U.S. prescription drug supply vulnerable to criminals seeking to harm patients.”

And George Karavetsos, former director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and Assistant United States Attorney, warned that importing counterfeit prescription drugs could lead to an uptick in deadly, illegal opioids.

To put the risks in perspective, the Wall Street Journal recently shared the story of a young man who lost his life after taking a counterfeit medicine to help him fall asleep. The medication in question was purchased on the black market and laced with a deadly dose of fentanyl.

“All risk with no reward does not sound like great policy,” Forbes concluded. “If patients cannot trust and rely on the safety of their treatments, the cost benefit of importing these risky medications, or the hope of innovative medical discoveries, then what good is importation as policy anyway?”

Read the full op-ed here, and visit DrugCostFacts.org to learn more about the dangers of drug importation.

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