FDA: Consumers Buy Imported Drugs Online to Avoid Prescription
U.S. consumers may be buying drugs online from other countries to avoid the need for a prescription rather than to save money, the FDA said, following a yearlong investigation.
U.S. consumers are spending money unnecessarily on potentially risky imported drugs, the report says. Of the 2,069 drug packages examined, 88 percent appeared to be prescription medicines available in the U.S. The remaining products included dietary supplements, drugs not available in the U.S. and products with illegible or incomprehensible labels.
More than half of the products sampled have FDA-approved generic versions that may be cheaper, the agency said, pointing to other studies that have shown that U.S. generics are generally less expensive than Canadian or Western European equivalents. Almost half of the sampled products can be bought for $4 at several U.S. chain pharmacies, a price often lower than shipping costs for the same drugs purchased online.
The FDA report is based on information collected between September 2006 and August 2007 in international mail and courier facilities across the U.S. In each location, all parcels suspected by customs and border patrol agents of containing pharmaceuticals were held back for 24 hours so the FDA could collect data on their contents.
Several drugs found in the survey require special monitoring by physicians or other healthcare professionals for potential adverse events and to ensure their effectiveness. These included antibiotics, antidepressants, the blood thinner warfarin and levothyroxine, a thyroid replacement hormone.