A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

The Wrong Way to Stop Fake Drugs – NYTimes.com

In Nonsense on April 23, 2012 at 12:32

The Wrong Way to Stop Fake Drugs

Foreign versions of drugs can cost roughly half what they do in the United States. For the millions of Americans who are uninsured or underinsured, buying from international, credentialed online pharmacies could provide access to the medicines they need at a price they can afford. The online market for drugs is already substantial, with probably more than a million Americans regularly participating. But it is growing slowly because of concern about drug safety and, of course, legality. While the F.D.A. does not prosecute individual consumers whose purchases present no threat to themselves or the public and grants some waivers to those buying less than three months’ supply of a drug from abroad, most are still technically considered criminals.

The logic behind the current law is that it protects Americans from buying dangerous drugs. But there are better ways to guarantee that. In a recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper, I assessed the quality and price of drugs procured through Internet pharmacies. As expected, I found several foreign sites that sold fake drugs. But of the international Web pharmacies certified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association or PharmacyChecker.com — 23 in all, with 211 drugs sampled — all passed quality-control tests. After all, they were the same drugs made by the same companies, just in different locations.

Careless buyers play Russian roulette, but those who look for credentialed sites can purchase safe drugs at a significant discount. Some Americans know this, but far more should. And it should be made entirely legal for them to do so.

Buying drugs online from overseas isn’t for everyone. It should remain a limited option for desperate cash buyers — sick people with limited resources and insurance coverage — not a way for well-insured patients to reduce their co-pay. American health insurance companies should not be required to reimburse consumers for these drugs, because that would effectively import foreign governments’ price controls into the United States and undermine American companies’ research and development budgets.


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