To answer the question directly — Yes! Technically, it’s illegal for people in the U.S. to import prescription medication. The law is generally not enforced when people buy 90-day supplies for personal use, particularly if the drug is
Recently a bill that would have allowed the importing of identical but lower-priced drugs from Canada was defeated, but not because Republicans had more votes, it was defeated because 13 Democrat Senators joined the Republicans. Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey was the subject of a great deal of criticism for his vote against the bill. His reason? Not enough safety measures. If Mr. Booker knows the issue as well as I suspect he does, he knows full well that prescription drug safety is an issue everywhere including the U.S. and there have been few if any specific incidents involving Canadian drugs. There are problems only with scam artists who say they are legitimate Canadian Pharmacies and are not. Near the end of this blog, we will provide you with information to help tell the phony pharmacies from those that are legitimate.
In case you’d like to launch a protest here’s the list of Democrat Senators who joined the Republicans in defeating the bill. The 13 Democrats are Michael Bennet (Colorado), Bob Menendez & Cory Booker (New Jersey), Maria Cantwell & Patty Murray (Washington), Tom Carper & Chris Coons (Delaware), Bob Casey (Pennsylvania), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Martin Heinrich (New Mexico), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Jon Tester (Montana) & Mark Warner (Virginia.)
One look at this chart and you can see why Americans would like to buy drugs anywhere but here. The price differences are astounding and the drugs are exactly the same.
The argument made by defenders of the non-importation of prescription drugs is that those bought in America are safer because they are checked by the FDA. The problem is most drugs aren’t made in America and the FDA is scrambling to keep up. Yes, they are concerned about drug safety and yes, they catch and punish violators of U.S. policy when they find them. But to say American prescription drugs are safer than what is sold in Canada isn’t quite accurate.
If safety is a concern that you might not want to buy your drugs from Zaire or Hong Kong or the Fiji Islands, but if you are considering Canadian Pharmacies you are about as safe as you are in the U.S. because we get our drugs from pretty much the same suppliers and most of them don’t make the medications in either country.
Consumer Reports says China and India each have about 500 drug-making plants that turn out both prescription and over the counter drugs. Most people don’t know it but most of the aspirin you buy is made in China, as well as most of the vitamins.
According to Web MD most medications purchased from reputable Canadian or European pharmacies are identical to what you get locally whether brand name or generic. But like everyone else, Web MD also points out that most of the drugs you take are not made in the U.S. Lipitor, for example, is made in Ireland. Carvedilol, the generic Zocor (Simvastatin) and Lisinopril are all made in India.
No one can say with any credibility that if you buy your drugs in Canada they are totally safe, but you can’t say that about the U.S.A. either because both countries get their drugs from the same suppliers. Now, to be fair, there are some companies that are more reliable and trustworthy than others and the FDA knows who they are and has been very hard on violators, but no one can guarantee drug safety.
While we remain confused and undecided, the Pharmaceutical companies are raking in huge profits from their cash-strapped American Customers. They not only charge top dollar in the United States. They manufacture your drugs in countries that can provide cheap labor and have few if any regulations. Every industry needs to be regulated, but no industry is as worthy of being regulated as big Pharma. Every pill you pop, every injection you get, every device you use must be perfect, there is no room for error and when your drugs and devices are made in countries over which we have no control we are all at risk. Certainly the FDA sets American Standards that the drugs must meet and they usually do – usually. But they can’t regulate how well trained the workers are, the sanitary and safety conditions under which they work, or how they are supervised.
My conclusion after doing some considerable research is that prescription drugs are for the most part safe and you likely will get the greatest assurance of safety if you buy them from the U.S. or Canada and work through established, recognized and approved pharmacies.,
With the price difference between American prescription drugs and those sold in Canada or elsewhere, there is no question as to why people want to buy drugs from Canada. If the policy makers in Washington are so concerned about buying in America, why don’t they do what every other country does and control the prices big pharma can charge.
So when you hear people like Senator Booker say he is concerned about safety standards you can safely assume that either he has been purposely misinformed or he has chosen to mislead the public. I believe it is the latter. Those standards are no different in Canada than they are here and that’s why the FDA turns a blind eye to individuals who buy their drugs from our northern neighbor.
If you are concerned about this issue do your own internet research, but for God’s sake please don’t take the advice of politicians. Often they are nothing more than paid spokespersons for the industry they are defending. Booker, for example, has taken campaign contributions from the Pharmaceutical industry.
The biggest problem with buying drugs from Canada is knowing which pharmacy is legitimate and which isn’t and because there is no government control of internet advertising it is difficult to find out. There’s no way, though, that I would conclude this blog without offering some help. The best advice I could find came from Consumers Report. Here it is.
If you do decide to order online, our medical experts suggest the following six measures to stay safe:
1. Stick with online pharmacies associated with legitimate walk-in stores in the U.S. CVS.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com, for example. Even your local independent pharmacy probably has a website that can accept prescription orders and refills.
2. Look for the VIPPS symbol. For other pharmacies, check with Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites, or VIPPS, a voluntary program the NABP set up in 1999. Internet pharmacies that meet the criteria can carry the VIPPS seal of approval. Among the requirements: pharmacies must be in the U.S.; they can dispense only FDA-approved medication; prescriptions they fill must be the result of a doctor-patient relationship, and they must list their physical location.
3. Try another source. LegitScript.com uses NABP standards to assess drugstores that don’t participate in VIPPS.
4. Confirm state approval. Make sure an online pharmacy is registered to do business in your state. To find out, do a search for, say, “California board of pharmacy” and follow the links to verify that the site is legitimate.
5. Follow up. If you’re still unsure, NABP lists sites it doesn’t recommend, which can be found here. Scroll down and click on “Buying Medicine Online,” then “Not Recommended Sites.”
6. Go local. Your best resource is a trusted pharmacist or pharmacy distribution program. Although rare, counterfeit drugs have been found in the U.S. supply chain.
Bottom line: Given the high risk of ordering medication from foreign websites, stick with well-known websites, walk-in pharmacies, and pharmacy chains in the U.S. To save money, switch to generics whenever possible, look for discount programs, and ask your doctor or pharmacist about other ways to reduce your costs.
My conclusion? If you need prescription drugs and are tired of paying American prices look to Canada. If the pharmacy is reputable, the price is right, and your insurance covers it, then buy it.
And from where I sit, that’s the truth!