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FDA Testing Lower-Cost Imported Medications

Tens of millions of people have bought medications from foreign pharmacies – despite the technical illegality of importing those medications. According to reporting by Kaiser Health News last month, the FDA tested imported medications, apparently to see if what Americans are doing is safe. All medications the FDA tested “contain[ed] the ingredients matching the medicines ordered.”

The Kaiser Health News reporting was focused on international pharmacy options offered by local governments, schools, and other self-insured organizations. While that’s interesting, it’s not breaking news (I mentioned it here). The FDA testing imports and saying the medications are safe, albeit begrudgingly, is breaking news.

For years, the FDA has wrongly warned Americans not to import medication to save money. The agency educates the public about rogue online pharmacies, which is good, but it does not distinguish those bad sites from safe international online pharmacies. Given the findings of recent testing by the FDA and the crippling costs of prescription drugs at U.S. pharmacies, there is no justifying a blanket statement leading Americans to believe that ordering from an international online pharmacy is not an option. It’s clear that it is.

An FDA spokesman conceded that the drugs tested were “safe” but she also added that just because the ones tested were safe doesn’t mean “all of them [are].” That statement just means that the FDA doesn’t regulate the sale of medication in other countries, so it cannot know about “all of them.” Look at it this way: the FDA could conceivably buy 1,000 medications from CVS or Walgreens, only test 100, and then declare, “the ones we tested were good but that doesn’t mean all of them are.” That doesn’t mean the other 900 aren’t also good.

The Research is Already There

How many imported drugs were tested? Which ones did they choose to test? The FDA is testing imported medications, the ones Americans are ordering online. They should share the good news with full transparency.

They should disclose the testing protocols and their findings. The FDA will find what independent, peer-reviewed research has demonstrated time and again: that licensed international pharmacies, including those verified by PharmacyChecker, sell high quality medications and require valid prescriptions.

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