With all the discussions of reducing prescription costs, the importation of drugs from Canada almost always appears in the debate.  While there are many reputable Canadian on-line and brick and mortar pharmacies from which to import prescription drug products, I have never thought that it was a good idea.  ABC News (here) seem to validate my opposition.

The story indicated that one of Canada’s largest “on-line pharmacies was fined $34 million on Friday for importing counterfeit cancer drugs and other unapproved pharmaceuticals into the United States.”  The counterfeit drugs were from unknown sources from around the world.  The bottom line is when you make your on-line order you just don’t know what you are getting, where it is made, or whether it has been approved anywhere, and thus have no idea as to the quality of the product or whether it is actually the product you ordered.

Sounds like a risky personal business to try to save some money.  Heck, I could sell you water in a vial and label it as a chemotherapeutic agent.  You’d save a lot of money, but you would likely die much sooner than if you received the safe and efficacious drug product you thought you ordered.

The “internet” pharmacy importation business is, in some cases, somewhat like the Wild West drug businesses in the early 1900s, where sales of Dr. Feel Good Elixir out of the back of covered wagons were common.  Now the stakes are much higher as there is lot more money to be made.  The old saying “let the buyer beware” certainly holds true, but today it could mean life or death in some medical disease states.

FDA and the Department of Justice has shut down many illegal and dubious internet prescription drug outlets, but they do not have the resources to police the entire internet.  The politicians will make the ultimate decision on the legality of importation of prescription drug products from other countries, but as a pharmacist and former FDA regulator, I say no to those drugs!