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Drug Importation Is About Politics, Not Safety

DALLAS – The revived effort to legalize the importation of prescription drugs has bipartisan support, but the practice remains just as dangerous as ever, since the lawmakers who hope to benefit from the scheme’s political expediency simply cannot guarantee the safety of imported drugs.

In a new Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) publication, “Drug Importation Is About Politics, Not Safety,” IPI resident scholar Dr. Merrill Matthews says policymakers like Trump Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are willing to assure U.S. consumers that prescription drugs imported from Canada are safe, effective and cheaper. But they are not informing patients about the serious potential risks of counterfeit and mishandled drugs allegedly coming from Canada, nor the consequences from a strain on the Canadian drug supply.

“No past HHS Secretary nor FDA commissioner has ever been willing to guarantee that imported drugs outside an FDA-approved chain of custody impose ‘no additional risk’ to U.S. patients,” said Matthews.

Matthews cites the tragic example of Betty Hunter of Arizona, who died in 2011 because her doctor gave her a fake prescription drug imported from Canada through Instead of receiving the biologic Avastin, Ms. Hunter received “a mix of mold and water.”

Matthews also warns that a surge in U.S. demand for Canadian drugs puts stress on Canadian supplies, and opens the door even further to counterfeits. “The Canadian government contracts with drug manufacturers to supply the country with the prescription drugs its citizens need,” said Matthews. “Since Canada has one-tenth the U.S. population, the quantities of drugs are very limited. If Canadian pharmacies began exporting prescription drugs to the U.S. in large quantities, they would quickly run out of inventory and would have to buy more from foreign sources. Canadian officials recognize this problem and have expressed their opposition to the importation schemes.”

“Counterfeiting drugs is already big business, and it would be even bigger if importation proponents get their way, leading to many more Betty Hunter stories,” said Matthews. “Importation proponents used to say ‘show us the bodies’ of people harmed by importation. Sadly, today we can.”

The Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) is an independent, nonprofit public policy research organization based in Irving, Texas. IPI Resident Scholar Dr. Merrill Matthews is available for interview by contacting Erin Humiston at (972) 874-5139, or  Copies of “Drug Importation Is About Politics, Not Safety
are available at