United Parcel Service, FedEx Respond to Lawmaker Concerns Over Role in Prescription Drug Reimportation
The United Parcel Service and FedEx have informed the House Energy and Commerce Committee that they have responded to "growing scrutiny" about their roles in the illegal sale of controlled substances and the reimportation of prescription drugs with efforts to "crack down" on online pharmacies that use the companies to deliver medications, the Wall Street Journal reports (Brooks, Wall Street Journal, 1/9). The House committee, as well as the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, last month raised concerns about the role of package carriers and credit card companies in reimportation. FDA officials last month contacted a trade association that represents package carriers and several major credit card companies and individual package carriers to set dates for meetings on the issue. FDA Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs John Taylor said that the agency might ask the companies to inform officials when they find a pattern of frequent or large reimportation shipments. In addition, he said that the FDA might ask the companies for help when the agency independently discovers such patterns (California Healthline, 12/16).
According to a letter sent to the House committee last week, UPS officials currently inform law enforcement authorities when they find shipments that contain controlled substances and have made efforts to "discourage" use of company services by online pharmacies that reimport medications. UPS has sent "cease-and-desist" letters to online pharmacies that use company services but do not require customers to have prescriptions and has warned such pharmacies to comply with U.S. law or lose their ability to use company services. FedEx officials have informed lawmakers that the company has increased efforts to find online pharmacies that use the FedEx logo on their Web sites and has "ceased doing business" with several online pharmacies. Both companies, which account for about 75% of air and ground packages shipped in the United States, would not identify the online pharmacies that they have contacted or dropped as customers. A spokesperson for the House committee said that he would not comment on the efforts by UPS and FedEx until the committee receives responses on the issue from Visa and MasterCard, which are expected by Friday. William Hubbard, FDA associate commissioner for policy, said, "This is not intended to be a 'gotcha' on UPS and FedEx. It's more trying to understand what's happening here, what they know and what might be able to do" (Wall Street Journal, 1/9).
In other reimportation news, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a bill under which the city would establish a program to reimport lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada for city employees and residents, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. San Francisco Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, who sponsored the bill, said that the vote "is a major step toward the goal of cheaper prescription drugs. In the absence of responsible actions by the federal government, cities and states need to be creative." San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will likely sign the legislation. Boston, Springfield, Mass., New Hampshire, Illinois and Minnesota have established similar reimportation programs (Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/9).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.