U.S. Residents Receive Warning Letters About Imports
Thousands of U.S. residents who order lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada have "received written notice that their medications have been seized" as "part of a U.S. government crackdown on the cross-border discount trade," the Boston Globe reports.
According to the Globe, the "increase in seizures and the strong legal warnings issued to consumers mark a shift in policy for the Bush administration, which until now has rarely acted against individuals who buy drugs from Canada."
Letters from the Department of Homeland Security mailed to residents whose medications were seized cite a federal statute that only drug makers can import prescription drugs from foreign countries. In addition, the letters warn that "virtually all" drugs imported by individuals into the U.S. are dispensed without a valid prescription or are unapproved for consumption in the U.S., the Globe reports.
Federal officials said they have become increasingly concerned about the quality of drugs imported from Canada, which led to a stricter importation policy in November 2005.
Lynn Hollinger, spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said, "What we're trying to do is protect the public from unsafe medications. It was a growing problem we felt was of concern to the American public."
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said that at least 13,000 packages containing pharmaceuticals were intercepted during the first months after the policy was implemented. Nelson and other lawmakers have said they suspect that the seizures are part of an effort to encourage seniors to enroll in the new Medicare prescription drug plan, enrollment for which began two days before the inception of the enforcement policy.
Some lawmakers have criticized the policy for preventing U.S. residents from receiving potentially life-saving medications. The customs agency denies any connection between the Medicare drug plan and the seizure policy (Rowland, Boston Globe, 3/26).