On April 4, 2017, the Partnership for Safe Medicines hosted “Risking Safety at all Costs: How Drug Importation is Dangerous Policy,” a half-day conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Over the course of the event, former FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, retired FBI Director Louis Freeh and a diverse group of experts discussed the concrete threat current drug importation proposals pose to the American public.

Experts explained the strength of the closed American drug supply, which has protected American patients for half a century, and reminded the audience the that drugs sold to Americans from “Canadian” pharmacies are not what they claim to be. “Illegal Internet pharmacies simply slap a maple leaf on their website but can’t sell products that have been approved in Canada to U.S. patients,” Carmen Catizone, Executive Director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy said. “That’s why they are buying medicines from outside Canada and sending those to U.S. patients when those medications would be prohibited from being distributed to Canadian patients as well.”

Watch highlights from the event’s first panel

Speakers cited the difficulty of tracking the source of imported medication, the scale of prescription drug counterfeiting and the expense of catching and prosecuting organizations selling substandard medicines as reasons that drug importation is a dangerous and inefficient policy. “The FDA is stretched to their limits,” George Karavetsos, a former director with the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, now at DLA Piper, said. Protecting Americans “would require significant increases in budget, in staffing, and even with all of that I don’t think you are able to sufficiently handle the volume that would be pouring into this country…You would have to revamp the whole regulatory framework that we currently have today.” “In addition to the fact that it’s just not feasible,” von Eschenbach added, “the real question is, is that best way to spend our money?”

The discussion included Tom Kubic, former Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI; Samuel J. Louis, Strasburger & Price and former Deputy Criminal Chief for the Department of Justice (DOJ); Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, former Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); George Karavetsos, former director of FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, now at DLA Piper; Kenneth C. McCall, Associate Professor, College of Pharmacy, University of New England; Louis Freeh, former FBI Director; Clive Timmons, Head of Global Security, Novartis; Aaron Graham, Executive Director, Brand Safety & Security, Boehringer Ingelheim; and Amy Lyons, Vice President, Corporate Security, Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Click through to our youtube channel to watch “Risking Safety at all Costs: How Drug Importation is Dangerous Policy,” in its entirety.