Prescription drugs can be very expensive. If you are taking medication on a regular basis and it is too expensive for you, and you do not qualify for Free Medicine Program, importing drugs from Canada might be a reasonable way to make it affordable. We at Free Medicine Program try to help you make decisions about saving money on your medications. We provide links to licensed Canadian pharmacies and offers some suggestions for when their use might be appropriate. It also provides information on the legal status of importing drugs from Canada.
There are some risks that arise when you purchase medications via the Internet or mail order, and some additional risks that arise if you are purchasing from a pharmacy outside of the United States. Be an informed consumer. You need to consider these risks and decide whether ordering your medications in this manner is right for you and your family.
Things You Need To Know Before Purchasing Your Medications From Canadian Pharmacies:
Is it legal?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains that:
- Reimporting into the U.S. prescription drugs originally manufactured in the U.S. is a violation of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act; and
- Importing medications made in other countries violates the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act if the medicine is not approved by the FDA or if it does not meet all FDA approval requirements.
In rare cases, the U.S. Customs Service has intercepted prescriptions from Canada in the mail and stopped individual U.S. residents from bringing prescription drugs for their personal use across the U.S. - Canadian border. For more information regarding "personal use" visit the FDA's Policy Web site.
Are drugs sold by Canadian pharmacies safe?
Prescription drugs are among the most highly regulated commodities in our society. In the United States, prescription drugs are certified as being safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) . The FDA undertakes extensive scientific reviews for each new drug. In deciding whether not to license a new drug, it makes a judgment as to whether its benefits to users outweigh its risks. When it approves a drug, it also approves the language that can be used in describing its risks and benefits. In addition, it monitors the way the drug is manufactured, and it keeps track of unexpected side effects after the drug has come to market.
In Canada, the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada protects its citizens in a similar manner. The Congressional Research Service has prepared a memorandum comparing the two systems. The FDA and its Canadian counterpart are equally reliable in protecting the health of their respective citizens, but neither agency has any authority outside its borders.
Coordination between Canada and the US may improve in the future. In November of 2003, the FDA and Health Canada signed a memorandum of understanding that, among other things, will result in procedures for dealing with cross-border issues. In addition, the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has the power to certify Canadian drugs as being safe and effective. It is currently considering whether or not it will do so. Toward this end, DHHS recently created a Task Force on Drug Importation, as mandated by the Medicare Modernization Act. The Task Force is scheduled to complete its work by December 2004.
Free Medicine Program cannot guarantee your safety. There are no guarantees when you buy your medications from your local pharmacy either. However, there are some additional risks that arise when you purchase medications via the Internet or mail order. Please see the Safety section of this Web site for more information about purchasing medications safely.
What about private medical information?
The Government of Canada regulates what these pharmacies can and cannot do with your private medical information. If you have any questions, please ask the pharmacy about its policies and practices in handling your medical information. The laws of the U.S. and your local state may not apply.
Will my medical insurance pay for drugs purchased from Canadian Pharmacies?
If you have health insurance that covers prescription drugs, it may not apply to drugs bought from a Canadian pharmacy. You should check with your insurance company before you decide to purchase from non-U.S sources.
What if my order is lost or filled incorrectly?
Please ask the pharmacy about its policy about lost or incorrect orders, returns and refunds. The state of Washington cannot intercede in any transaction between you and the pharmacy.
Deciding To Purchase Your Prescription Drugs From a Canadian Pharmacy
Before using any pharmacy, be sure you have considered other ways to make your prescription drugs more affordable and have read about the legal status of Canadian prescription drugs. There are other ways to save money on prescription drugs.
In some cases, Canada drugs are not the most affordable choice. For instance, generic drugs are generally less expensive in the United States than they are in Canada. In addition, there are some other drugs you cannot purchase through Canadian pharmacies. These include controlled substances and drugs that are not available in Canada. For example, some generic drugs approved in the United States are not available in Canada, and vice versa. You should compare the Canadian vs. United States prices of your medications to determine your best options prior to making any purchase.