Kenneth “Mac” McCall: Florida should steer clear of drug importation

prescription-drugs 03.23
"This is a legitimate health crisis!"

As someone who has worked as a pharmacist and trained others in the field for many years now, I have a great deal of concern for my colleagues and the patients that they serve throughout Florida.

I see the Florida state legislature working to legalize the importation of prescription drugs from foreign sources, and I worry that there is not enough discussion or understanding of the clear dangers a step like this would bring.

We have had this battle already in my home state of Maine, where a judge struck down attempts to legalize drug importation. In fact, it’s a debate we’ve seen nationally with Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Food and Drug Administration Commissioners, from both Democratic and Republican administrations, deeming drug importation to be unsafe.

The reasons we don’t have drug importation already implemented in the United States are clear and inarguable. We are currently facing a global counterfeit drug epidemic and it’s already affecting too many Americans.

Already, in more than 40 states, law enforcement officials have identified counterfeit pills containing highly lethal fentanyl, a few grams of which can kill someone instantly. In fact, in 29 of those states, there have been fentanyl-related deaths from counterfeit pills.

These aren’t isolated cases. In fact, law enforcement is fighting an uphill battle against a veritable deluge of these dangerous products coming into the country.

Thousands of American doctors and clinics have done business over the past decade with drug wholesalers dealing in counterfeits. Just one enterprise claiming to be a Canadian pharmacy made tens of millions of dollars sending unapproved drugs into the United States.

This is a legitimate health crisis! It’s one that local and national law enforcement entities are hard pressed to stop given their limited resources and the sheer volume of counterfeit drugs coming through ports of entry by international mail services from so-called pharmacies peddling these products over the internet.

It shouldn’t escape the notice of Florida lawmakers that the Food and Drug Administration has just issued a letter of warning to a company called CanaRx, that lists a Canadian address on its website. CanaRx is contracting with health plans in the United States to provide drugs, and the FDA says these medications are likely coming from sources other than Canada and could well be counterfeit or carry safety risks.

I mentioned at the outset that I’m concerned about pharmacists working in Florida if the state moves forward with drug importation. They could very well find themselves in legal jeopardy.

If Florida acquires drugs through a wholesaler, and that wholesaler purchases drugs of unknown origin through a foreign supplier, pharmacists can be held legally liable for dispensing a counterfeit medication to a patient even though they have no knowledge they are dispensing potentially toxic substances. The aforementioned CanaRx case underscores this danger. CanaRx is dispensing potentially dangerous drugs to American health insurance customers.

A Florida patient would instinctively trust an unlicensed foreign vendor if they are bundled with a legitimate U.S. health plan and have no way of knowing they are part of a possibly-lethal supply chain.

Several other states have attempted to legalize drug importation, but all have failed to show that it’s safe or saves money.

We already have a global counterfeit drug epidemic that is increasingly affecting families and communities throughout our country. The federal government has determined multiple times that drug importation can’t be done safely.

I hope, for the sake of Floridians, that state policymakers come to that same conclusion.

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Dr. Kenneth “Mac” McCall is an associate professor and Director of Residency Programs at the University of New England College of Pharmacy. He has served as president of the Maine Pharmacy Association.

Guest Author


2 comments

  • HSteinberg

    April 4, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. I guess people who cannot afford the criminal prices of drugs in US to keep them alive are willing to take a chance with their lives for medication from Canada. Either way, they probably figure they are going to stay sick or die. At least they have a chance to stay alive with the medication from out of the US. 500.00 co-pays for medication with insurance? What does this Doctor “Mac” expect people to do? Even with insurance, people cannot afford certain medications. Pharmaceutical CEO’s should be dragged out and beaten in the streets. Seniors, children and underprivileged are dying so that they can stay millionaires. I get my medication from Canada and it works just fine. The Governor should absolutely do this.

  • Milton Bertin

    April 17, 2019 at 11:27 pm

    McCall note is very interesting.

    What he said is that adults are not free to make their personal choices.

    The state needs to jump-in because somebody is buying drugs from Canada. Shame you!

    The nanny state needs to jump in to “protect” the person against his wishes.

    Fidel Castro will surely approve.

    That criminals corporations make big money by charging citizens with prices bigger than other countries don´t show up. That citizen goes untreated by the pricing of such monopolies also don´t show up.

    ¿What is the problem with medicines coming from the European Union, or Canada?

    The letter of FDA against a Canadian company that his drugs can have safety risks is incredible, it is not difficult for the FDA to buy such drugs and test it. They don´t need to express concern. They need to serve the public.

Comments are closed.


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