Have you ever thought about the difference between importing food and importing medicines? They both require oversight to ensure safety. Curiously, the US Food and Drug Administration, FDA, which is charged with overseeing the safety of food and drugs, has no issue with ensuring the safety of imported foods but prohibits drug importation, allegedly because of safety concerns. Hint: That’s not the reason.
The FDA could ensure the safety of imported medicines if it can ensure the safety of imported foods. As a new Tarbell investigative piece by Michael McAuliff shows, the principal reason that the FDA bans drug importation is because the pharmaceutical companies want it that way. (Note: Though drug importation is technically illegal, millions of Americans buy drugs abroad, and the US has never prosecuted anyone who bought drugs abroad for personal use.)
McAuliff details how Pharma has been working with the FDA and Pharma-funded entities to try to make it hard for people to buy drugs online from abroad. And, through its agents, it has enlisted Visa and MasterCard to help; people sometimes cannot use these credit cards to buy drugs from abroad online. Payments to many of the verified pharmacies on Pharmacychecker.com, which verifies pharmacies as legitimate, are by check.
To be clear, the evidence suggests that drugs purchased from verified pharmacies abroad are as safe as drugs purchased in the US. There is not one report to the contrary that anyone can point to.
What the data show is that the lax standards for FDA approval of prescription drugs and medical devices in the US as well as for certain chemicals in foods and other products create serious patient safety issues that are not being adequately addressed. Yet, neither the FDA nor Congress is suggesting stricter standards for their approval.
“Patient safety” should mean access to affordable medicines. Withholding people’s ability to purchase drugs from abroad can put them at far greater risk than making it as easy as possible for them to get the affordable medicines they need.
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