US Surgeon General Richard Carmonareleased the results of a new studythat raises significant concerns aboutthe importation of prescription drugsfrom Canada and other countries.
The report, prepared by Carmona'sHealth and Human Services (HHS) TaskForce on Drug Importation, concludesthat "there are significant risks associatedwith the way individuals are currentlyimporting drugs"into the UnitedStates, and that "legalized importationwill likely adversely affect thefuture development of drugs for Americanconsumers."
The task force raised particular concernsabout the safety of medicinesimported outside the current pharmacy-based US drug distribution system.
"While wholesalers and pharmacistspurchase, transport, and dispenseimported drugs within our regulatoryframework, American consumers makingindividual purchases from foreignsources outside our regulatorysystem?face safety hazards that wouldbe extraordinarily difficult to effectivelyaddress and prevent,"the report warned.
Carmona's task force also concludedthat legalized importation of prescriptionmedications could create significantnew liability problems for pharmacistsand consumers in this country.
"Consumers harmed by importeddrugs may not have legal recourseagainst foreign pharmacies, distributors,or other suppliers,"the reportwarned. "Entities in the pharmaceuticalsupply chain may take actions to protectthemselves from liability that couldultimately raise the cost of drugs."
The HHS task force conclusionswere echoed by the National Associationof Chain Drug Stores (NACDS),which warned that "drugs purchasedabroad are not subject to the samestrict controls as those drugs purchasedin a US pharmacy."
"The dangers of drug importationhighlight the valuable role pharmacistsplay every day in keeping theirpatients and customers safe,"NACDSPresident Craig L. Fuller said inresponse to the report. "Local pharmacistswork with patients face-to-face toensure that they receive the right medicinesat the right dosage, as intendedby their doctors, "but "the protectionsof a local pharmacist are lost andpatients put themselves unnecessarilyat risk when they import drugs."
Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.