American and Canadian Pharmacist Associations Warn that Drug Importation Policies Could Put Patients at Risk
The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) have issued a joint statement opposing U.S. federal legislation authorizing personal and commercial importation of prescription drugs from Canada.
“While we recognize the desire to address affordability issues in the U.S., we strongly oppose the importation of prescription drugs from Canada because of the risks these policies pose to patient safety and continuity of care,” said APhA CEO Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon), FAPhA.
The associations’ top concerns center on patient safety and optimal medication use. When pharmacists dispense medications, they review and assess all available health information to ensure that medications are safe and appropriate for their patients. This includes identifying possible drug interactions and other adverse events and communicating and resolving any concerns with the patients’ prescribers.
Canadian pharmacies may only dispense medications prescribed by a Canadian prescriber. “This regulation is in place to protect the safety of patients by ensuring that physicians and pharmacists have established relationships with their patients and knowledge of their medical histories,” said CPhA CEO Glen Doucet. “Recently proposed personal drug importation policies pose additional challenges that have not been contemplated.”
While potentially creating additional patient access issues such as Canadian drug shortages and recalls that impact patient safety, importation policies may encourage patients to purchase medications from online pharmacies, but some online pharmacies can turn out to be entities selling counterfeit drugs and operating outside Canadian and American laws. These entities are difficult to detect and control due to their sophistication and the large number in operation. Should the importation policies advance in U.S. federal legislation, the associations expect an influx of U.S. patients receiving illicit, counterfeit, or otherwise harmful products from websites posing as Canadian online pharmacies.
“As organizations representing Canadian and American pharmacists, CPhA and APhA are eager to protect patients and clarify the implications of drug importation policies on patients and health care providers in our countries,” Menighan noted.