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Dangerous Assumptions Drawn From List of Permitted Countries

Periodically proposals are floated both in Washington, DC and state capitols that would allow Americans to import drugs from 32 “permitted” countries – Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the 27 members of the European Union. There is a perception that these countries have “safe” drug supplies insulated from the dangers that every other nation in the world.

Thomas T. KubicKubic (sm)

Periodically proposals are floated both in Washington, D.C. and state capitols that would allow Americans to import drugs from 32 “permitted” countries – Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the 27 members of the European Union.  There is a perception that these countries have “safe” drug supplies insulated from the dangers that every other nation in the world.

This is based on the faulty assumption that these countries do not have issues with counterfeit drugs.  Here are some examples of countries mentioned in recent proposals and the dangers of importing pharmaceuticals from them:

  • Austria and Germany: According to the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (a member of the Partnership for Safe Medicines), Austria and Germany were among the top 10 countries where counterfeit drugs were most frequently seized or discovered in 2008
  • Belgium: The AFMPS issued an alert in 2007 warning patients about circulation of a counterfeit Levitra tablets
  • Bulgaria and Denmark: In 2007, the Danish Medicines Agency issued a warning after counterfeit versions of indapamide (used to treat high blood pressure) at pharmacies and distributors on the Bulgarian market
  • Czech Republic: In July 2008, Prague customs officers liquidated over one ton of counterfeit medicines worth tens of thousands of US dollars
  • Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 20 percent of the market in former Soviet republics are counterfeit drugs
  • Japan: Last year, there were 104 reported incidents of counterfeit drugs in Japan.  It was also a top 10 countries where counterfeit drugs were most frequently seized or discovered in 2008
  • United Kingdom: In the past three months alone, the Medicines Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)—the British equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—has issued two recalls for counterfeit insulin pens and inhalers

When you take into account the EU parallel importation and trade laws, any counterfeit products that get into the legitimate distribution chain of one country can contaminate the distribution chains of other countries. 

Learn more about dangers of drug importation, its link to counterfeit drugs and the issues threatening the safety of our prescription drugs, visit www.safemedicines.org.

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