Drug Bust

Published January 1, 2004

The U.S. Customs Service recently examined 2,000 drug products shipped into six cities and found many contained unapproved versions of drugs that could pose a risk to your health.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan again warned they found much for consumers to be wary about, such as missing labeling and improper packaging.

The introduction of counterfeit drugs and the proliferation of so-called Internet drug stores have made it much easier to sell unregulated medications that can quickly make their way into the drug supply. The FDA is conducting a study to determine what additional authority is needed to assure the safety of imported drugs.

Part of the problem is that consumers–including government-run health care programs like Medicaid–are not taking advantage of the cost savings available with generic drugs. Illinois, for example, announced its intention to re-import drugs from Canada. But a study revealed Illinois could get a generic equivalent for 12 drugs on the state-approved list much cheaper than the Canadian version.

Also, consumers who buy 90-day supplies of their drugs and shop around will find no two pharmacies charge the same amount for the same prescription. Over-the-counter versions of certain drugs, such as antihistamines, are also a cheaper alternative that can save states and individual consumers money.

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.