What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet?

Published January 1, 2004

The foreign prescription drugs in your medicine cabinet may not be safe.

Canadian health authorities have warned that Health Canada–that country’s version of the FDA–will not take responsibility for the safety of drugs exported from Canada to the United States.

If you think Internet drug sellers are safe because their Web sites display the Canadian flag, you’ve been fooled, says Lew Kontnik, coauthor of the book Counterfeiting Exposed. Canadian authorities do not inspect medicines that are trans-shipped through their country bound for U.S. consumers, which opens a huge loophole for counterfeiters to sell us fake medicines masquerading as Canadian prescription drugs.

Former FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan warned that drug importation creates a wide channel for large volumes of unapproved drugs and other products that are potentially injurious to public health and pose a threat to the security of our nation’s drug supply.

The Illinois Pharmacists Association warned the medicine you buy from across the border might be unsafe and ineffective.

Foreign sources of prescriptions, including those in Canada, require people to sign waivers that hold harmless the seller from any legal responsibility for the quality of the drugs. State governments are also warning consumers that government officials are not responsible for any harm caused by buying drugs from foreign sources.

The reason is obvious: There is no realistic way to verify the safety of these foreign drugs bought in Canada.

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.