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Canadian Online Pharmacies - is it Safe to Buy Medications from Canada


Why Do Consumers Buy Prescription Drugs Online?


People buy prescription drugs online for three main reasons:

  • Convenience: For prescription drugs taken long-term, having supplies delivered to the home is extremely convenient.
  • Cost: In most cases, ordering prescriptions online is cheaper than doing so through a drug store.
  • Privacy: There are some prescription drugs that people would rather not purchase in public at a pharmacy, and online pharmacies provide privacy.

Why Do U.S. Residents Buy from Canadian Online Pharmacies?

So why do many U.S. residents purchase prescription drugs from internet pharmacies advertised as Canadian? The main reason is lower prices. U.S. residents feel very neighborly toward Canada, may travel there regularly, and may have friends and family there. It feels very safe to purchase things from Canada, and prescriptions are not different.


Are "Canadian" Products Really Canadian?

In almost ALL cases, Canadian online pharmacies are selling medications that are not FDA-approved or manufactured in Canada. These medications could come from manufacturing facilities throughout the world - Europe, Asia, South America. The FDA has a strong stance against buying medications from Canada online and DOES NOT condone the sale of medications to United States Customers via the internet.

The FDA does not approve the sale of medications to customers in the United States because Canadian online pharmacies are not regulated the same way U.S. pharmacies are.

From the FDA's Website: "the FDA does not have authority to approve drugs sold in Canada. And if a Canadian company is selling drugs only for export to the United States, and not to Canadian citizens, Health Canada may not regulate the drugs or the company at all. Drugs coming to the United States from Canada may be coming from some other country and simply passing through Canada. The drugs could also be counterfeit, contaminated, or subpotent, among other things (see "Potential Health Risks With Imported Drugs").

Is it Legal to Get Prescription Drugs from Canadian Online Pharmacies?

Importing prescription drugs that have not received FDA approval is illegal. However, the FDA's personal use policy is to use its discretion and not necessarily take action against importation of drugs in a few very specific cases. For example, individuals with rare forms of cancer may get treatments that are available in foreign countries but which are not FDA-approved. But the following conditions must be met:

  • The drug must be for a serious condition for which the U.S. may not have an FDA-approved treatment.
  • The product must not represent an unreasonable risk.
  • The individual must affirm in writing that it is for individual use and must provide contact information for the U.S.-licensed physician responsible for treatment.
  • The product must be ordered as a three-month supply or less.
  • There must be no known marketing push to U.S. residents by those distributing the drug.

So what does that mean for the average consumer who may simply want to buy their blood pressure or erectile dysfunction medication from Canada because it's cheaper? Even if a drug with the same name is approved in the U.S., the drug will generally be considered "unapproved". In other words, it may be manufactured in another country where it would be impossible to determine that it isn't counterfeit. And unapproved status makes it illegal to import to the United States.


What Are the Dangers Involved?

The dangers involved, even when purchasing from Canada, include receiving a product that is:

  • manufactured with any or adequate quality control
  • Counterfeit
  • Made from untested substances
  • Not safe to take without adequate medical supervision
  • Labeled improperly or in a language the consumer does not know
  • Lacking in important labeling information such as potential side effects

Then, of course, there are the legal ramifications of purchasing a non FDA-approved medication.

Every year, Americans import millions of packages of pharmaceuticals from foreign online pharmacies, and many of these pharmacies advertise themselves as Canadian, even if they are not. Buying prescription drugs from online Canadian pharmacies is almost always illegal due to the fact that these drugs' provenance cannot be definitively known, rendering the drugs non-FDA approved.


What About Buying from U.S. Internet Facilitators Online?

A 2007 Congressional report concluded that many U.S.-based online pharmacies are legitimate and offer convenient, safe services similar to those provided by independent and chain pharmacies in the United States. The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2007 was passed to address problems of online prescription drug trafficking. The law requires that U.S. internet pharmacies post information on their websites about their location, identity, licensure, pharmacists, and states in which they are authorized to practice. The law also assists law enforcement in investigating online pharmacies suspected of operating illegally.


How Consumers Can Be Sure They're Buying from a U.S. Online Facilitator

When U.S. consumers want to purchase prescription drugs online, you should look for U.S. online pharmacies or facilitators that:

  • Require a valid prescription
  • Have a U.S. address and phone number
  • Do not sell generic medications such as "generic Viagra" (which does not yet legally exist)
  • Only sell authentic medications, such as Viagra in tablets of 25mg, 50mg, or 100mg

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Sources:


http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm143561.htm
http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/BuyingMedicinesOvertheInternet/ucm202675.htm
http://www.opencongress.org/bill/110-s980/show
http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/beyond-the-pharmacy-online-and-mail-order-prescription-drugs
http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2005/ucm108534.htm
http://www.nabp.net
http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/email/oc/buyonline/buyonlineform.cfm

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