By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com April 05 2003 1:00 AM ET
During a meeting Thursday of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness, officials from the Food and Drug Administration defended the agency's efforts to enforce laws banning the reimportation of drugs from Canada, saying that the FDA is concerned about the safety and efficacy of medicines shipped to U.S. consumers, The Wall Street Journal reports. Many Americans either visit Canadian pharmacies or order drugs online from Canada drugstores because the medications typically cost far less in Canada than they do in the United States. Many anti-HIV medications can be purchased in Canada for as little as half their U.S. cost. Only drug manufacturers and wholesalers are legally permitted to reimport drugs from Canada, but the FDA had previously been lenient in allowing individual consumers to bring medications into the United States for personal use. However, in February the agency announced that it will begin enforcing laws preventing individuals from reimporting medications and prohibiting companies from doing so.
House members showed little support for the FDA's new policy, with some representatives accusing the agency of attempting to scare Americans who are trying to get affordable medicine. "You scare the hell out of [people]," committee chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) said. Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) added that despite the FDA's claims that reimported drugs could pose a safety risk, "there hasn't been one problem." Both congressmen also accused the FDA of changing its policy due to pressure from American drug manufacturers who are losing money on Canadian drug sales. FDA officials denied the charge.