To the dismay of pharmaceutical companies, many Americans purchase their prescription drugs from Canada and other foreign countries to avoid the exorbitant prices of medication in the United States. Often, the cost is up to 80 percent less than in the United States. This has been a godsend for those Americans who are on fixed incomes, seniors and those who simply cannot afford the high drug costs in the United States.
The FDA is very specific on when it’s legal to do this. The set guidelines for the importation of prescribed drugs into the United State are:
- The prescribed drug must not be sold to anyone else.
- The prescribed medication must not exceed a three-month supply.
Still, there are many U.S. people who do not adhere to these guidelines and take the risk of performing an illegal act. In the past, it’s been a matter of don’t ask and don’t tell. No one has ever been prosecuted for not adhering to the guidelines. However, a possible change just may be in the works. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is deciding on whether or not the government should take action against individuals who purchase prescribed medications from foreign countries.
Of course, the pharmaceutical companies are lobbying hard and fast for the government to take action. As a matter of fact, the Obama administration had a proposal to allow some importation of prescribed drugs, but it was quickly thwarted by formidable opposition by the pharmaceutical companies and eliminated from the Affordable Care Act. These companies are interested in making profits and not about putting an end to Americans paying inflated prices for their medications.
Recently, a 71-year-old woman from Idaho got a notice from the FDA telling her that a shipment from a foreign country for her was being held. She had ordered Vagifem as prescribed by her doctor. The package was impounded as an illegal drug at the Los Angeles Airport. Vagifem is an estrogen tablet to help with the symptoms of menopause. This woman ordered the tablets from a Canadian pharmacy to save money. In the United States, it would cost $1,000 a year for this prescription while a year’s supply from Canada costs less than $100. When she wrote to the FDA to request the delivery of her prescribed medication, the reply was that the prescription would either be returned to Canada or destroyed.
Unfortunately, the stringent guidelines by the FDA and government seizing action is forcing Americans to commit fraud or tell little white lies. Some even wind up getting their medications from others who have better health insurance, purchase them illegally from others or have their physicians write a prescription for double the dosage. In their eyes, they are still law-abiding citizens, but the government doesn’t see it that way.
According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5 percent of uninsured Americans purchase prescription drugs from foreign countries, and 2 percent of adults purchase prescribed medications from other countries. It’s highly likely that these percentages are much higher since most people are hesitant to admit engaging in any illegal activity.
How can Americans fight the regulations and practices of the FDA and government? The best thing is to take action. Writing a letter to local congressmen and Washington senators is a step in the right direction. Getting petitions signed is also a powerful weapon. There’s power in numbers when it comes to government and change. Americans have the right to affordable medical care, and that includes affordable medications.