Prescription drugs shipped to the U.S. from Canada through certain Web sites operated by Manitoba-based Mediplan Prescription Plus Pharmacy might be counterfeit and should not be used by U.S. consumers because the medications might not be safe, FDA said on Wednesday, the Washington Times reports (Washington Times, 8/31). Mediplan, which was founded in 1999, is one of the largest Internet pharmacies in Canada and is "considered the first Internet pharmacy," according to USA Today. FDA said agency testing found that versions of 10 drugs that were ordered through Mediplan Web sites and seized by U.S. officials during the past few weeks did not contain the correct amounts of active ingredients. Some also were shipped from countries other than Canada. The drugs are considered counterfeit because they are marketed as brand-name products when they actually are not, FDA said. The drugs — which were ordered from RxNorth.com, Canadiandrugstore.com and other Web sites — were sold as Actonel, Arimidex, Crestor, Celebrex, Zetia, Diovan, Hyzaar, Lipitor, Nexium and Propecia, FDA said. Randall Lutter, FDA associate commissioner for policy and planning, said, "All of these products are intrinsically deceitful." Lutter did not specify the amount of active ingredients in the seized drugs or which countries they were shipped from (Appleby, USA Today, 8/31). Prescription drug reimportation is illegal under U.S. law. FDA has said it cannot guarantee the safety or efficacy of reimported drugs, but the agency generally has not stopped U.S. residents from ordering prescription drugs from abroad for personal use.
Health Canada spokesperson Paul Duchesne said, "Health Canada is aware of the issue. We are investigating, and if there are any safety concerns, we will be sure to alert the public" (Washington Times, 8/31). Mediplan founder Andrew Strempler said, "We test our products and stand behind our products," adding that Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia are the main sources of medications sold on his company's Web sites. He said, "We were the first to do this. So we've created quite a stir with the pharmaceutical industry." Andy Troszok, immediate past president of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, said FDA "has tended to take the evidence and skew it in a fashion to say Canadian pharmaceuticals are unsafe, which is completely contrary to the evidence." Troszok added that CIPA takes "very seriously any allegation of counterfeiting" and that Mediplan is a member in good standing with the association. He said, "We'd like to see the evidence behind the charges," adding that he could not comment further until he learns more about the allegations (USA Today, 8/31).
About two-thirds of U.S. residents believe that a federal law against the purchase of prescription drugs from Canada seeks to protect the profits of pharmaceutical companies, compared with 9% who believe that the law helps protect residents from potentially harmful medications, according to a recent WSJ.com/Harris Interactive poll, the Wall Street Journal Online reports. The online poll surveyed 2,295 U.S. adults from Aug. 23 through Aug 25. The poll finds that more than three-fourths of respondents agree that the seizure of prescription drugs purchased from Canada jeopardized the health of some U.S. residents, compared with 15% who disagree. In addition, 84% of respondents believe that the federal government should allow the purchase of prescription drugs from Canada, provided that the medication have approval from Health Canada, compared with 9% who do not, according to the poll. The poll also finds that Hispanic respondents and respondents who live in the western U.S. are most likely to have purchased prescription drugs from abroad and that black respondents and those who live in the eastern or midwestern U.S. are least likely to have purchased medications from abroad (Bright, Wall Street Journal Online, 8/31).
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