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Lose the scare tactics.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Oregonians, beware! That prescription drug you've purchased in Canada for half of what it would have cost you in Eugene could be dangerous. It may look like an American drug, but (cue monster movie organ music) Looks Can Be Deceiving!

So says the Food and Drug Administration, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and the Oregon State Pharmacy Association in a blatant scare campaign dubbed (cue monster movie organ music) "Looks Can Be Deceiving!"

The trouble is, while the FDA was cooking up the (cue monster movie organ music) "Looks Can Be Deceiving!" project, the General Accounting Office was discovering that, actually, Canadian drugs are quite safe and in some instances, Canadian pharmacies had stricter standards than those in the United States.

GAO investigators purchased drugs from 29 Internet pharmacies in the United States and 18 in Canada. All 18 Canadian sites required consumers to supply a physician-written prescription before filling orders. But only five of 29 U.S. pharmacies required a prescription. If the FDA and pharmacy associations are serious about protecting American consumers, there's quite a bit of work to be done getting U.S. Internet pharmacies to actually require prescriptions before mailing out drugs.

Not only are Canadian drugs safe and carefully regulated, independent studies have repeatedly found that the drug supply chain from manufacture to sale in Canada is less vulnerable to misuse and counterfeiting than its U.S. counterpart.

Clearly, the tax dollars being wasted on the (cue monster movie organ music) "Looks Can Be Deceiving!" campaign could be better spent on direct interaction with and certification of Canadian pharmacies. Gov. Ted Kulongoski is on the right track with his proposal to allow Oregon pharmacists to fill orders with state-approved Canadian pharmacies. He has sought federal approval for his plan, which would require the administrator of Oregon's Office of Health Policy and Research to go to Canada to establish working relationships with pharmacies.

To be fair, the (cue monster movie organ music) "Looks Can Be Deceiving!" campaign performs a valuable public service in warning consumers about the dangers of purchasing drugs from any unknown or disreputable source. It's important to remember that while the GAO report gave Canada high marks for drug safety, some of the drugs received from other foreign pharmacies were counterfeit and many came inappropriately packaged, with no instructions or warnings. A bottle of pills of the AIDS drug Crixivan came inside a sealed aluminum can that was itself enclosed in a box labeled "Gold Dye and Stain Remover Wax."

Well-meaning efforts such as the FDA's current drug safety campaign will remain vulnerable to suspicion and cynicism until the federal government signals that it's serious about addressing the crushing cost of prescription drugs. Clearing the way for Congress to allow importation of drugs from Canada would be a good start, followed by amending the Medicare Act to allow the government to use the buying power of millions of Medicare beneficiaries to negotiate the best drug prices.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Program disparaging Canadian drugs is a waste
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 20, 2004
Next Article:Keep working on reform.

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