Internet Program Allows U.S. Seniors to Purchase Less-Expensive Pharmaceuticals from Canada
With prescription drug costs on the rise, United Health Alliance, a not-for-profit health group, runs a program to help seniors import drugs from two Canadian pharmacies, the Chicago Tribune reports. The group administers the program, called Medicine Assist, through a Web site. Under the program, the group faxes prescriptions from patients' doctors to participating Canadian pharmacies, which then send the drugs to the doctors. The doctors then send the drugs to pharmacies in the United States, where patients may receive them. Between July and December 2000, Elizabeth Wennar, the group's CEO and president, said that 145 patients used the program and saved a total of about $59,000. Although the FDA allows individuals to ship approved drugs into the United States for "personal use," the Clinton and Bush administrations have declined to implement a congressionally approved proposal to allow "wholesale reimportation" of U.S. pharmaceuticals by companies or individuals. The Tribune reports that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the FDA have opposed prescription drug reimportation over safety concerns. William Hubbard, an FDA official, said, "U.S.-made drugs that are reimported may not have been stored under proper conditions or may not be the real product, because the United States does not regulate foreign distributors or pharmacies. Therefore, unapproved drugs and reimported medications may be contaminated, subpotent, superpotent or counterfeit" (Dardick, Chicago Tribune, 9/17).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.