The non-profit organization Partnership for Safe Medicines has released a report chronicling how opening U.S. markets to foreign drug importation could exacerbate the problem of fake online pharmacies selling counterfeit medication, specifically to children.
According to the report, "A Risky Proposition," more than one-quarter of all American children and teens take regular prescription medications for conditions ranging from asthma to ADHD to depression to diabetes.
Counterfeit drugs are a common problem internationally, the report says, including counterfeit flu vaccines discovered in the United Kingdom the the Netherlands in 2006, the 2009 deaths of 84 children in Nigeria because of tainted teething medication, and 12 million fake medicines including antibiotics, anti-tetanus medication, and aspirin uncovered in a 2009 raid in several Southeast Asian countries.
The report cautions that parents who might be tempted by lower prices through online pharmacies could be putting their children at risk. Parents should, therefore, always buy medications from accredited and licensed pharmacies. From the report:
America's closed and secure system covering the supply chain and sale of medications is much stronger than those in many other countries. State and federal agencies closely regulate the flow of source material for medicine, its manufacturer, distribution and sale, and ultimately its dispensation at licensed pharmacies.... This combination of a closed and secure system, along with aggressive law enforcement efforts explains why there are fewer incidents of counterfeit drugs in the U.S. medicine supply than in many other countries.
Some Americans are circumventing the protected closed system by buying medicines from fake "online pharmacies" that they may not know are scams. Buying online from entities that are not legal, accredited pharmacies is a high-risk activity for loved ones.
Hence, the anonymity of the Internet means anyone can claim anything about themselves online including sham businesses. This means that "Canada" doesn't always mean "Canadian" and labels or postmarks from "trusted" countries do not mean the contents are from these countries. Drugs from Canada, UK, and other western countries are viewed as safe, inexpensive and, particularly with the increased popularity of the Internet, easily accessible -- all reasons why proponents of importation reference Canadian and European drugs so often. Unfortunately, many Americans – as well as Members of Congress – are unaware of the actual personal and public health dangers. But these dangers are more and more prevalent as a result of fake medicines and pharmacies, and the open and largely unregulated trade policies that make it possible to infiltrate the global drug supply.
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