Opponents of personal prescription importation leverage an arsenal of untruths and misinformation to wage a message war against the practice since it undercuts their profits and threatens their business model.
The reality is that millions of Americans import their daily prescription medications from legitimate, licensed pharmacies in Canada at significantly reduced prices. For many people, this means that they can afford their life-saving medication as well as pay their mortgage and provide food for their families.
Many “claims” use fear to attempt to influence consumer choice:
MYTH: The importation of prescription drugs from Canada is unsafe and harmful to Americans.
FACT: Over the last 15 years, millions of Americans have imported their daily prescription medications from Canada. Pharmacies in Canada are licensed in each province and sell medications approved by Health Canada, with comparable oversight to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Studies have shown that personal prescription importation from legitimate, certified online pharmacies in Canada is safe and results in considerable cost savings. Roger Bate conducted a National Bureau of Economic Research study to assess the quality and price of drugs purchased through online pharmacies. Among the drugs sampled from certified online pharmacies, all passed quality-control tests.1
MYTH: Many drugs that come from Canada to Americans may not originate in Canada, but instead can come from places with lax regulatory systems. Drugs imported from other countries lack oversight by any health authority, and there is a high likelihood that these drugs are mishandled.
FACT: Canada sources its medications from the same manufacturers as the U.S., there is no difference in the quality of prescription drugs sold in the U.S. compared to Canada. Recent research shows that 70 percent of the top-selling brand name drugs sold in U.S. pharmacies are manufactured outside the country, and these same drugs are sold for up to 87 percent less in Canada. In 2011, the FDA acknowledged that 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients in medications and 40 percent of prescription drugs sold in the U.S. were foreign-made, which is an underestimate based on studies.2
MYTH: Medicines on the U.S. market are regarded as the safest in the world. The relatively closed distribution system plays a critical role in helping to keep the global proliferation of counterfeit medicines from infiltrating the U.S. prescription drug system.
FACT: The regulatory system in Canada is equivalent to the regulatory system in the U.S. This means that the supply chain – the system that moves prescription drugs from manufacturer to pharmacy to end user – is just as safe in Canada as it is in the U.S.
MYTH: Allowing importation from Canada will increase the existence of rogue pharmacies and counterfeit drugs.
FACT: Rogue pharmacies selling counterfeit medication online are dangerous to patients. These websites may never go away completely, but legislation will create a mechanism to compile a list of legitimate online pharmacies that will enhance safety by steering consumers away from sites that are not on the list, minimizing the number of counterfeit medications coming into the country.
MYTH: Allowing importation from Canada will increase the number of dangerous opioids coming into the U.S.
FACT: The proliferation of opioids has created a national health crisis. Licensed, legitimate online pharmacies in Canada do not dispense opioids. While opponents have tried to connect these two issues, they are indeed separate issues as opioid distributors are not the same as licensed, legitimate online pharmacies that dispense prescription medications.
As lawmakers struggle to address the issue of high drug prices, facing intense resistance from the pharmaceutical manufacturers, allowing personal prescription importation from Canada is the simplest, most immediate solution to provide Americans with reasonable access to safe, affordable prescription medications.
While we are pleased to see Congress and others putting forth options to address absurdly high drug prices, most proposals will take years to implement, if they move forward at all. On the other hand, Congress can provide relief today by allowing importation of personal-use medications from credentialed, verified Canadian pharmacies.
We will continue to fight for the right of Americans to access safe and affordable prescription medications.
1 Bate, R., Jin, G. & Mathur, A. (2013). In Whom We Trust: The Role of Certification Agencies in Online Drug Markets. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 14(1), pp. 111-150. http://bit.ly/2u7Fxhn
2 PharmacyChecker.com (2017) Study on country of origin sources and pricing of prescription drugs. Prices recorded between May 1st and June 30th, 2017 through GoodRX.com and PharmacyChecker.com. http://bit.ly/2xJXenK