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Fake Drugs and False Pride: Congress and Prescription Drug Importation

Many members of Congress are once again embracing the notion that the U.S. can safely import prescription drugs from Canada. Even though counterfeit drugs are an international problem that virtually every other country is trying to manage, that fact appears not to have found its way to Washington.

Some American supporters of drug importation seem supremely confident in the safety and purity of drugs from Canada:

“There isn’t any way anyone in this Chamber can demonstrate that there is a safety issue with respect to the medicines sold in Canada. You might be able to demonstrate there is a safety issue dealing with Bali or Honduras or Guatemala or Zaire, but you can't do it with Canada. You just can’t.” Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)

“So that is the reason this amendment is narrowly focused on Canada because we are talking about a system that is very similar, almost exactly the same in terms of the safety and the rigorous oversight.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

“Last fall, the Governor sent a team of experts to Canada to study the impact of importing prescription drugs from that country. The group reported that importing prescription drugs from Canada is not only safe, but in some cases, even safer than purchasing prescription drugs here in the United States.” Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.)

But Canadians seem much more concerned about the safety of their drugs than do these Americans:

“The province's chief coroner issued six pointed recommendations yesterday after reviewing the investigation into the deaths of 11 King West Pharmacy customers from Hamilton. Dr. Barry McLellan called for a review of resources dedicated to catching counterfeit drugs in Canada, noting staffing may have to change to stop fakes getting into the distribution system.” The Hamilton Spectator, January 2006

“The legislation, introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives earlier this month, will encourage the proliferation of mail-order and Internet drug sales, which could open the door to drug counterfeiting and drug terrorism, said Ontario Pharmacists’ Association CEO Marc Kealey.

“‘Who can say with absolute certainty that the next $19 million worth of phony drugs could be sent to America not by criminals in Belize, but by terrorists determined to kill American citizens? That the fake pills from a purported Canadian Internet pharmacy will contain not talcum powder or baking soda, but cyanide or anthrax?’ Kealey said in a speech to the Economic Club of Toronto.” Form the Toronto Star, January 2007.

We report, you decide.