Canadian Drug Importation

AUGUST 01, 2004
Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS, Editor-in-Chief

It is certainly interesting how elected officials can decide which laws are relevant and which can be ignored. Yet, they are unwilling to give the same privilege to citizens. Whatever happened to the concept of the "Rule of Law"?

I guess that state and local officials are simply following the example of the members of the US Congress, who sometimes pass laws for everyone else but exempt themselves. In an effort to achieve short-term advantages and ignore long-term consequences, Canadian importation continues to be promoted by state and local government officials as a solution to the high cost of drugs, even though it is against the law and knowledgeable people are speaking out against it.

When the problem of counterfeit drugs entering the US market is mentioned as a consequence of such a program, some people say, "Where are the examples of citizens who have been harmed?" That is an interesting question. We keep drugs off the US market until they are proven safe and effective. Yet, supporters of importation are suggesting that we can use citizens as test animals, and when enough people are harmed then we can act. I wonder if that is really what they want.

Of course, we know that most drug importation is for chronic-disease treatment. When such drugs are counterfeit, containing no or suboptimal active ingredient, the consequence to the patient may not be realized until much later, when, for example, uncontrolled blood pressure causes serious consequences. At that point, no one may associate the problem with earlier drug therapy. Let us hope that we do not reach the point with drug therapy where we bury our mistakes without realizing that the cause was counterfeit drugs.