Buyer Beware

Published January 1, 2003

Congress is considering legislation to make re-importing drugs legal, not just from Canada but also from two dozen other countries. If the bill were to become law, unlicensed wholesalers and black-market dealers could purchase drugs from 25 foreign countries.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes re-importing drugs from Canada and other countries opens U.S. borders to unsafe, counterfeit, and contaminated drugs. The re-importation measure creates an open door for a flood of unapproved drugs and other illicit products to enter the United States–all potentially injurious to public health.

Despite the safety issue, the House of Representatives approved the bill, sponsored by Minnesota Republican Gil Gutknecht. It currently is being considered for inclusion in the Medicare reform bill.

If the measure passes, citizens would have no idea what they are buying or where their drugs came from. An Internet site may have a Canadian address, or the storefront operation may be in your hometown, but the drugs could easily come from the recently discovered counterfeiting factory in Lebanon.

If someone takes a fake heart medicine and then dies, it would be difficult to know if the patient died from the heart ailment … or because the cheaper prescription contained only baking powder.

Some individuals argue cheap drugs are worth the risk. But flooding the nation with counterfeit drugs endangers everyone–not just the folks who say they’re willing to take that risk.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.