Aren't Canadian medicines they ordered online as safe as ours?

Well, no. Buying medicines from online pharmacies that claim to be selling Canadian drugs is dangerous.


Consumers looking for safe prescription medication often order drugs from "Canadian" online pharmacies. Aren't the Canadian medicines they order online as safe as ours? Well, no. Buying medicines from online pharmacies that claim to be selling Canadian drugs is dangerous.

1. "Canadian" online pharmacies that sell to American consumers are often just shipping companies that pretend to sell medicines meant for Canadians. In fact, they may not even be located in Canada. Gallant Pharma, for example, claimed to be a Canadian company, but was actually selling unapproved foreign medications from Crystal City, Virginia.

2. Drugs shipped from Canada don't always come from Canada. They can't; there isn't enough supply in Canada to satisfy U.S. demand. If just half of elderly Americans shifted their purchases to Canadian sources, it would exhaust the supply of drugs in Canada in a few months.

In 2005, FDA found that nearly half the illegally imported drugs they seized from four foreign countries were falsely labeled Canadian. 85% of the medicines came from 27 countries around the globe, and some of the drugs the FDA tested were found to be counterfeit.

3. The drugs online "Canadian" pharmacies sell may be counterfeit, contaminated or substandard. In 2011, counterfeit cancer medication sold as Avastin was found and tested by the FDA. The medication, used to treat late stage cancer patients, contained mold and water, but no active ingredient. The company that supervised the distribution of the medication was, an online pharmacy headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Ultimately, the fake medicine came from Ozay Pharmaceuticals, a Turkish company illegally exporting Turkish medicines of unknown quality.

4. "Canadian" pharmacies that sell drugs to Americans are not regulated by (or accountable to) authorities. As long as they are not selling medicines to Canadians, drug exporters can bypass Canada's safety regulations and mail fake or low-quality drugs to Americans using a Canadian mailing address. As one Canadian official put it, “Health Canada does not assure that products being sold to U.S. citizens are safe, effective, and of high quality, and does not intend to do so in the future.”

But the FDA isn't overseeing the drugs, either. Canadian pharmacies are not subject to the FDA's jurisdiction, which means American customers aren't protected by the FDA's safety regulations. The FDA is explicit about this risk: "Medicine bought over the Internet from foreign sources, from storefront businesses that offer to buy foreign medicine for you, or during trips outside the United States, may not be safe or effective...FDA cannot help you if you have problems with medicine you get from outside U.S. regulation and oversight."

5. Online pharmacies that claim to source their drugs from "Tier One" countries like Australia and the United Kingdom are not providing drugs that are any safer. Online pharmacies often assure customers that their medicines come from “Tier One” countries—Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, South Africa or countries in the European Union. But the concept of a Tier One country for importation is a misreading of the regulations, confusing export countries and import countries. The FDA has never designated any country from which it is universally safe to import medicine.

Criminal prosecutions show that once you break the supply chain, no promise about the source of medicine can be trusted. In the Avastin case, counterfeiters bought and sold fake product repeatedly from country to country until it arrived at in the U.K. Licensed pharmacists in countries such as the U.K. are not even allowed to fill overseas prescriptions from American doctors, so you know these businesses can’t be legal pharmacies.

The bottom-line is that when consumers import their drugs from Canada they have no way of knowing what they're buying. Americans who import drugs from Canada are gambling with their health and fake online pharmacies that sell these drugs are exploiting vulnerable patient populations such as minorities, seniors, and fixed income patients.