Many American citizens are making online purchases of pharmaceuticals from Canada. An estimated $500 million dollars of pharmaceuticals were shipped from Canada to the US in 2002 and larger sales volumes are expected in 2003. Many brand name pharmaceuricals are less expensive in Canada due to price regulation by the Canadian government, reduced litigation risk, and lower per capita income of Canadians citizens. Intriguingly, some generic medications are more expensive in Canada.
Canadian pharmacies can only fill prescriptions written by Canadian physicians, and it is illegal to fill prescriptions written by US physicians. Intermediaries enable the sale of pharmaceuticals to the United States by providing Canadian physicians who rewrite the prescription. The prescription is filled, then the intermediary mails the medications to the US customer for a fee.
The Canadian Medical Association objects to Canadian physicians writing prescriptions on patients not examined. Canadian pharmaceutical societies discourage selling medications to patients in the US, as pharmacists are unavailable to discuss the medications with the patients.
Current US law prohibits the importation of prescription medications from foreign countries into the United States. This law is usually not enforced for those obtaining prescription medications written by a licensed United States physician for personal use. The government is beginning to prosecute businesses that enable the importation. Major pharmaceutical companies are considering not supplying the Canadian pharmacies that sell to United States consumers.
One mission of the FDA is to ensure and protect the public health by closely regulating the manufacturing and distribution of medication. Drugs available for sale in the United States are manufactured in a “closed system” which oversees the manufacturing process in addition to shipping and storage. Utilizing medications from another country circumvents the system and introduces potential dangers from counterfeit medications. Some drugs sold in Canada are manufactured in the US and shipped to Canada. Other drugs sold in Canada may be produced by different manufactures than those allowed in the US. Most troubling is the potential for tampering with medications. The drug could be contaminated or counterfeit. The packing or storage might be inadequate. In the current troubling and turbulent times, discounted medications purchased from a Canadian or website could be counterfeited or poisoned having been manufactured elsewhere in the world.
Organizations have assisted their members try to obtain safe drugs from reputable Canadian pharmacies at discounted prices. The Minnesota Senior Federation has developed a program to import drugs from. This organization negotiated discounted pharmaceutical prices with a Toronto pharmacy and then offered their members discounts. Individuals pay $19 annually and couples pay $29 annually to join and receive benefits. Their website, www.mnseniorfed.org posts the prices of drugs along with much other useful information. This organization has been profiled by AARP.
Many but not all of the commonly prescribed United States drugs are available from Canadian pharmacies. The largest potential savings from purchasing drugs from a Canadian pharmacy arise by purchasing newer, expensive brand name drugs in larger quantities, rather than generic medications. All prices are in US dollars. All drugs listed had $2 billion or more in 2002 worldwide sales. The Canadian prices were taken from the www.mnseniorfed.org website. US prices were taken from the www.costco.com website. Current prices may be different as prices are subject to change.