/publications/issue/2003/2003-12/2003-12-7551

FDA and Customs Agents Intercept Dangerous Drug Imports

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    Underscoring community pharmacy concerns about cross-border sales of prescription drugs from Canada, the FDA has joined with the US Customs Service in an aggressive new campaign to draw attention to the flow of foreign drugs into the United States by mail and common carriers.

    After conducting a series of "spot examinations of mail shipments of foreign drugs to US consumers," FDA officials said that its inspections "revealed that these shipments often contain dangerous unapproved or counterfeit drugs that pose potentially serious safety problems."

    "Although many drugs obtained from foreign sources purport, and may even appear to be, the same as FDA approved medications, these examinations showed that many are of unknown quality or origin," agency officials said. All told, FDA and customs agents intercepted 1153 imported drug products at postal facilities in California, Florida, and New York. Of these, "the overwhelming majority (88%)?contained unapproved drugs," they explained. "Many of these imported drugs could pose clear safety problems."

    Despite these findings, neither agency plans to initiate any broad-based effort to interdict potentially dangerous drug shipments. Neither the FDA nor the Customs Service has "sufficient resources to perform comprehensive examinations of all mailed packages due to the huge volume of parcels entering the United States," FDA officials said.