As my colleague Thomas Kubic recently noted, most supporters of drug importation have a faulty assumption that developed countries like Canada, Australia, Japan and the 27 members of the European Union (E.U.) are insulated from the global threat of counterfeit drugs. In the coming weeks, we will take a closer look at some of these so-called “safe” countries and illustrate why there is no such thing as a “safe” country when it comes to drug importation.

Marvin D. Shepherd, PhDShepherd (sm)

As my colleague Thomas Kubic recently noted, most supporters of drug importation have a faulty assumption that developed countries like Canada, Australia, Japan and the 27 members of the European Union (E.U.) are insulated from the global threat of counterfeit drugs. In the coming weeks, we will take a closer look at some of these so-called “safe” countries and illustrate why there is no such thing as a “safe” country when it comes to drug importation.

Due to our likenesses and strong historical connection with the British, many are lulled into a false sense of security about the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) supply chain for prescription drugs. While the U.K. has a reliable supply chain overall, its weaknesses come into play when you consider the E.U.’s parallel importation and trade laws—which introduce opportunities for criminals and counterfeit drug manufacturers.

For example, if a counterfeit or substandard drug is introduced into the legitimate supply chain of an E.U. member such as Poland or Slovenia, it can easily infiltrate the distribution chains of other countries like the U.K. as parallel trade laws allow goods to travel freely between E.U. countries. More on parallel trade and importation.

In fact, in the past year, the PSM has alerted consumers to three safety glitches in the U.K.’s supply chain. These incidents, which included counterfeit insulin pen needles, recalls of asthma inhalers and contraband herbal lifestyle drugs, posed risk to the lives of Britons.

Furthermore, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)—Britain’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—has issued a half-dozen drug recalls since 2007 related to counterfeit drug contamination of its legitimate supply chain.

Anytime consumers venture outside of the United States’ currently closed system—even if it’s to a seemingly safe country like the United Kingdom—there is a very real risk to health and welfare. The PSM asks to our lawmakers to consider the safety aspects of drug importation, especially from those countries mislabeled as “safe.”

Learn more about the threats that drug importation poses to Americans at SafeMedicines.org, keyword “drug importation.”