The Wall Street Journal on Monday examined how thousands of U.S. residents are having their prescription drug orders from Canada seized as a result of a policy change last November that some lawmakers and other critics allege is "intended to protect U.S. drug makers' sales at high domestic prices.
" In the past, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and FDA "had tended to turn a blind eye" toward individuals' drug purchases from Canada, but as of Nov. 17, 2005, Customs has been regularly intercepting packages from Canadian pharmacies, the Journal reports.
The policy change has resulted in the confiscation of 37,154 prescription drug orders. FDA said it began seizing packages because a large portion of drugs sent from Canada are counterfeit and might be unsafe for consumers, although some U.S. lawmakers from both parties have "cast doubt on the safety argument," according to the Journal (Carreyrou, Wall Street Journal, 7/24).
Earlier this month, the Senate voted 68-32 to approve an amendment that would prohibit seizures by Customs of prescription drugs purchased from Canadian pharmacies by U.S. residents. The House has approved two FY 2007 appropriations bills that include provisions to allow the purchase of prescription drugs from abroad (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 7/12).
Some critics suspect that the seizures are part of a campaign to encourage seniors to enroll in the new Medicare prescription drug plan. Customs denies any connection between the new seizure policy and the Medicare drug plan.
Customs spokesperson Lynn Hollinger said, "We're an independent government agency, and we are charged with enforcing the law." Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "Consumers may be risking their health by purchasing imported prescription drugs from purported Canadian Internet pharmacies -- which have been known to sell fake and potentially unsafe medicines to unknowing American consumers -- and may be run by shady dealers in countries such as India, China and North Korea" (Carreyrou, Wall Street Journal, 7/24).