drugs from Canada - Small but growing
The Pew Internet and American
Life Project said in a new report that only 4 percent of
Americans have ever used the Internet to buy prescription drugs
and only a portion of these buy drugs from foreign pharmacies
like those in Canada or Mexico.
According to the study, 62%
believe that drugs bought online are less safe than those that
can be bought at local pharmacies. The U.S. FDA (Food and Drug
Administration) says that it cannot guarantee the safety of
drugs sold through foreign pharmacies and indeed it
cannot. The FDA has no authority in Canada, Mexico, or in
any other other country. Foreign pharmacies are not
required to follow FDA requirements, the FDA cannot conduct any
investigations, and chances are that the FDA will not know
anything about a problem.
What that means however, is
that it is entirely up to the consumer to determine what
countries they buy their prescription medications from, based
upon the authorities and regulations that are in place in that
When it comes to Canadian
pharmacies, this seems to be the easy choice for many
Americans. Canadian pharmacy laws are very similar to
those in the United States and enforcement is equally vigilant
in making sure that Canadian medications are of the same
This message seems to have
resonated at state levels with North Dakota, Wisconsin, Rhode
Island, and New Hampshire being amongst the first states to
facilitate their residents' ability to buy prescription drugs
Other states are either
planning or considering such moves and the first peek that the
Federal government may be moving towards removing blocks came
during this year's Presidential debates when President George
Bush indicated that it was under study.
Indeed, if the Federal
government puts a stamp of approval on it, it will need the
highest levels of assurances that United States citizens are
safe. Experts indicate that such a move is likely and that
to date, no issues have been raised to indicate that there are
any greater problems in Canada than in the U.S.
Drug company objections
Since only 4% of Americans have
bought drugs online and only a small percent of those were from
Canadian pharmacies, one has to wonder what the big deal is and
why drug companies are so opposed to the idea.
Drug manufacturers sell the
same medications to Canadians that they do to Americans and
despite assertions of "concerns" over safety, no
realistic data has been provided indicating that there is any
basis for this concern. If there is such a basis, it would
seem as though the drug companies would be able to come up with
The simple truth of it is that
the prescription drug manufacturers know that they know that
they have a tiger by the tail, and that letting that tiger go
could potentially mean losing billions of dollars in profits.
Since Canada controls the
prices that drug companies can sell for and the United States
does not, the profits to the drug manufacturers for drugs sold
in America are much higher. While only a small percentage
of seniors purchase their medications in Canada, more and more
seniors are getting online.
When seniors find that their
friends are doing it and saving money, like any word of mouth
good news, the tendency to move towards foreign pharmacies can
take awhile, but then grow at enormous speed. Evidence of
this comes from the Pew report indicating that 26% of Americans
have used the Internet for researching medications and obtaining
price information. If even a portion of those make the
subtle change to actually buying their medications online, drug
companies and American pharmacies will take a big blow.
Simply put, it's easier to
scare people off from buying the first time than it is to bring
them back once they've tried it, saved money, and learned that
their health is in no danger. Or more simply put, it's
easier to squash a snowball than to stop an
Of course one cannot blame any
company for trying to keep their profits high. The
question of ethics comes into play however, when companies do it
by trying to scare their customers or when they try to cut off
Canadian pharmacies that don't do their bidding. About a
half dozen drug companies have cut off supplies to Canadian
pharmacies for non-compliance, but this has had little
effect. Pharmacies whose supplies are interrupted merely
found replacements in Europe.
Among the findings in the
- Online drug buyers tend to
have higher incomes and more years online than the
average. They feel more comfortable ordering anything
online and this translates to buying prescription drugs.
- Most people who ordered
reported good success and planned to do it again.
- Most of the drugs that were
purchased were for chronic conditions. This would
include arthritis, blood pressure and heart problems,
allergies, migraines, cholesterol, diabetes, and others.
- Most indicated the primary
reason for ordering medications online was financial, making
the time delays and small amount of extra work worth the
According to the Canadian
International Pharmacy Association (CIPA), when it comes to
using online pharmacy websites, most use it for research but
only about 10% actually complete the purchase online. The
remaining 90% phone their orders in.
Drug manufacturers next
It certainly seems as though
drug manufacturers are still in the knee-jerk response mode of
trying to squash the snowball before it gets too big. Look
for more reprisals and more lobbying in Washington, perhaps even
going the route of civil litigation and even pushing criminal
charges where they can. The later however, will be very
difficult since most of the facilitators are not subject to U.S.
law. Nevertheless, you can expect to see drug companies
pull out the stops to thwart this consumer movement towards
purchasing from Canadian pharmacies.
The drug companies however,
would be best in the long run to take a look around them and
recognize that it is inevitably self-defeating to stand in front
of any Internet driven movement, especially those fueled by cost
savings on one side and increasing the market share on the other
side. They may as well be trying to herd a bunch of cats.
The music industry tried it by
stamping out Napster. But like hitting a grease fire with
water, it only spread their problem to many fires that are very
hard to control.
Drug companies, like their
counterparts in the music industry, that continue to fight this
movement will simply suffer the consequences of lost
market-share. If consumer cannot get a certain medication
through their Canadian pharmacy, they will ask their doctors to
prescribe alternative medications and then the drug companies
will lose both profits and market-share.
On the other hand, drug
manufactures that get behind Canadian pharmacies or choose to
sell American prescription medications at the same price they
sell it in Canada will gain all sorts of good press and public
good will. The trick to this however, is to be one of the
first few to make the shift rather than being the last holdouts
on a profit system that is simply going away no matter how hard
they try to stop it.
uses Canadian Pharmacies?
Pharmacy Use Growing
pharmacies and online drug stores