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NACDS warns Congress on danger of drug imports

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) sent a letter to all 100 U.S. senators last month ahead of a vote on an amendment that would allow Americans to purchase prescription drugs from Canada.

In its letter, NACDS said that importation undermines the prescription drug safety net.

“NACDS shares the goal of reducing the cost of prescription drugs, including through the promotion of generic drugs as safe, cost-effective alternatives for many patients. In fact, increasing the use of generic drugs is one of the most effective ways to minimize prescription drug costs,” the letter said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) introduced the amendment, cosponsored by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, to S. Con. Res. 3, the concurrent resolution setting forth the congressional budget for the federal government for fiscal 2017. “It’s not a radical idea to import medication from Canada, where they pay a lot less for the exact same drugs. 72% of Americans support it,” Sanders said on Twitter on the day of the vote.

The amendment failed, 46 to 52, with two senators not voting. A dozen Republicans voted for the amendment, and 10 Democrats voted against it.
In its letter to the senators, NACDS said it does not believe that consumer safety can be ensured in a system allowing the personal or commercial importation of prescription drugs.

“The United States has an extensive safety net of federal and state laws to ensure that prescription drugs are manufactured, stored, shipped, dispensed and used in a safe manner. That safety net is eliminated, however, when prescription drugs are imported from foreign suppliers,” NACDS said in its letter.

“Drugs coming into the United States from foreign websites and mail order operations are not subject to U.S. regulation, nor are they subject to regulation in the country from which they originate. The Food and Drug Administration has stated that it “cannot ensure the safety and effectiveness of products that are not FDA-approved and come from unknown sources and foreign locations, or that may not have been manufactured under proper conditions. These unknowns put patients’ health at risk if they cannot be sure of the products’ identity, purity and source. For these reasons, FDA recommends only obtaining medicines from legal sources in the U.S.,” the letter said.

“Additionally, the potential for counterfeit drugs being mailed into the U.S. from foreign internet sites offering prescription drugs is very high. Further, if a foreign-dispensed drug is subject to a recall or is withdrawn from the market, there is no way to inform patients and protect them from harm.

“In addition to questions concerning the safety and effectiveness of the drugs, individuals who obtain prescription medications through personal importation schemes do not have a licensed pharmacist available to consult with them about using the medications safely and effectively. Every day, retail pharmacists assist customers with obtaining the most cost-effective, therapeutically appropriate drug therapies.

“As the Senate moves ahead to debate on S. Con. Res. 3, we look forward to working with you to advance alternative policies that expand access to prescription medications in safe, affordable and effective ways.”


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