The growingappetite of USconsumers forlower-cost foreigndrugs maybe contributingto the danger ofhealth-threatening medication mix-ups,FDA officials warned.
The agency has long cautionedAmericans against importing prescriptionmedications from Canada andother countries, arguing that suchimports may be adulterated or evencounterfeit. Now officials are adding anew worry: the possibility that confusionover drug brand names in othercountries could inadvertently lead consumersto take the wrong medication.
FDA investigators have found thatmany foreign medications marketedunder the same or similar-soundingbrand names as those in the UnitedStates actually contain different activeingredients than in the United States.
As an example, FDA cited the US drugFlomax—a brand name for tamsulosin, atreatment for an enlarged prostate. InItaly, however, the active ingredient in theproduct called Flomax is morniflumate,an anti-inflammatory drug. Similarly, inthe United States, Norpramin is the brandname for an antidepression drug containingdesipramine. In Spain, the same brandname, Norpramin, is used for a drug thatcontains omeprazole, a treatment forstomach ulcers.
Additionally, the FDA officials cited>100 US drug brand names that haveforeign counterparts that look or soundso similar that consumers who fill suchprescriptions abroad may receive adrug with the wrong active ingredient.
"Consumers who fill US prescriptionsabroad, either when traveling or whenshopping at foreign Internet pharmacies,need to be aware of this potentialhealth hazard," said Dr. Murray Lumpkin,FDA deputy commissioner forinternational and special programs.