Do Drug Reimportation Savings Outweigh Safety Concerns?
The Los Angeles Times today looks at legislation passed by the House last week that would allow individuals to import FDA-approved prescription drugs through mail order or the Internet, a proposal hailed by many as necessary to counter the high domestic cost of drugs but criticized by others as jeopardizing consumer safety. According to the FDA, roughly 2 million "parcels" containing prescription medications already enter the United States every year (Carey/Marsa, Los Angeles Times, 7/16). Current law does not specify whether it is legal for individuals to import drugs, but the FDA often sends letters to consumers who import drugs, warning that they might be in violation of federal law. Many lawmakers and drug industry representatives believe that legalizing reimportation, which will likely increase the number of patients who import drugs through the Internet or mail order, will make more consumers susceptible to counterfeit or unsafe drugs not subject to the stricter regulations found in this county. Frederick Mayer, a San Francisco pharmacist who runs the Pharmacists Planning Service, a not-for-profit group that advocates lower drug prices, said that while drugs that come from Canada seem "very clean ... there are other countries, including Mexico and some Asian countries, which just don't have the same good manufacturing standards that we do here; we worry about sloppiness and about counterfeiting." But supporters of importing drugs say that "it may be worth the risk" to lower costs. "This shows the lengths people will go to avoid paying high prices for drugs in this country," Amanda McClosky, who studies drug pricing for the consumer group Families USA, said (Los Angeles Times, 7/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.