U.S. Customs To End Seizures of Medications From Canada
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials on Tuesday said that as of Oct. 9 they will no longer seize prescription drugs sent by mail to U.S. residents from Canadian pharmacies, the Wall Street Journal reports (Carreyrou, Wall Street Journal, 10/4).
Customs officials have seized thousands of packages of prescription drugs sent from Canadian pharmacies to U.S. residents since Nov. 17, 2005, when the agency began to increase enforcement of federal laws that restrict the purchase of medications from abroad. The purchase of prescription drugs from abroad is illegal, but customs and FDA officials generally have allowed the practice (California Healthline, 7/12).
As of mid-July, Customs officials had seized more than 37,000 packages. However, the seizures "had come under fire from lawmakers for depriving tens of thousands of American seniors of their drugs and protecting the high prices charged by U.S. pharmaceutical companies," the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 10/4).
In an e-mail sent on Monday to some lawmakers, Customs officials said that they will end the seizures and will begin to test random packages for counterfeit prescription drugs and medications with ineffective ingredients on "randomly generated days throughout the fiscal year" (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 10/4).
Lynn Hollinger, a Customs spokesperson, said, "We just decided to focus our resources differently. We are still very committed to protecting the American public from these medications" (LaMendola, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 10/4).
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson in a statement said, "While we are reversing this policy, (Customs and Border Protection) remains committed, in cooperation with the FDA, to protecting the American public from unsafe and ineffective medications. We will be focusing our resources to best protect the American public."
An FDA spokesperson declined to comment on the decision to end the seizures.
Jodi Reid, director of the California Alliance for Retired Americans, said, "People were concerned that they might not get their drugs because they were getting seized." Reid added, "This does open that option again for people who were trying to figure out how to get their medications to manage their health at a price they can afford" (Los Angeles Times, 10/4).
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said, "This is a huge victory. For nearly a year, the White House has been punishing seniors for filling their prescriptions at lower Canadian prices." Nelson added, "Now it looks like the government it getting out of the business of harassing these consumers."
Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "We're adamantly opposed to any importation schemes. Fake drugs are a very serious problem that is real and growing" (Wall Street Journal, 10/4).