What does the Canadian government have to say about online ‘Canadian’ pharmacies?

It’s not just the FDA who believes that it’s not safe to purchase prescription drugs from Canadian web pharmacies.  Health Canada agrees.  Since 2004 they have issued nine advisories (listed below) warning Canadian citizens to be wary of online drug sales. Four of those warnings pertain to fraudulent anti-flu medicines; three discuss the risks of online prescription sales; the other two are warnings about four specific web pharmacies that claim to be Canadian, but are not licensed by Canadian regulators.

Of three of these pharmacies, Health Canada says, “Health Canada has identified prescription drugs for sale on these websites that have not been authorized for sale in Canada. These products contain references to brand names and resemble drugs that have been authorized for sale in Canada. As such, Health Canada suspects these products are counterfeit.”  In a more general warning, Health Canada explains that counterfeit drugs ”may also contain hidden ingredients not listed on the label, dangerous additives and/or contaminated ingredients. . . may lack the active ingredients Canadians would expect them to contain to help them maintain and improve their health. For all of these reasons, they could cause serious health effects.”

Canada posts these warnings about online pharmacies to protect its citizens, but the Canadian government takes no responsibility to ensure that they are distributing legitimate medicine.  In fact, in 2004, Diane C. Gorman, then Assistant Deputy Minister of Health Canada, stated explicitly that “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” (Department of Heath and Human Services, HHS Task Force on Drug Importation, December 2004, page 61, http://archive.hhs.gov/importtaskforce/Report1220.pdf).

If Health Canada can’t vouch for the safety or effectiveness of medicine from online “pharmacies” and the FDA can’t either, who can?

Health Canada Alerts about Online Pharmacies, 2005 – 2012

1. Counterfeit Drugs May Pose Serious Dangers to Your Health, 6/22/2012, http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2012/15005a-eng.php.

2. Warning about Buying Prescription Drugs Online from: www.northdrugmart.com, www.northdrugstore.com, and www.pharmacyrxworld.com, 11/3/2010, http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2010/13450a-eng.php.

3. Health Canada Warns Canadians about Buying Prescription Drugs Online from www.globalpharmacy.com , 7/27/2010, http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2010/13414a-eng.php.

4. Consumers Warned Against Buying Fraudulent H1N1 Flu Virus Products Online,11/4/2009, http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2009/13346a-eng.php.

5. Health Canada Reminds Consumers About the Risks of Buying Drugs Online, 8/7/2009,http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2009/13324a-eng.php.

6. Consumers Advised Against Counterfeit and Unapproved H1N1 Flu Virus (Human Swine Flu) Products, 5/3/2009, http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2009/13379a-eng.php.

7. Health Canada reminds consumers about the risks of buying drugs online, 8/15/2007, http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2007/13151a-eng.php.

8. Health Canada advises consumers against counterfeit and unapproved avian flu products, 3/28/2006, http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2006/13084a-eng.php.

9. Health Canada advises consumers be cautious when buying Tamiflu online,12/23/2005, http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2005/13597a-eng.php.