Remember the Madonna video?
Vogue. Strike a pose.
That’s what’s behind the ill-considered and dangerous Vitter amendment that would neuter US Customs and Border Protection from actually protecting US citizens — by removing their authority to seize illegal, potentially unsafe and counterfeit prescription drugs that Americans import “from Canada.”
“From Canada?” Not necessarily.
All of the large Canadian internet pharmacies openly admit that the drugs they send to unsuspecting Americans are not “the same” drugs that Canadians get at their local pharmacy. They’re from other places — many from Europe. So what’s wrong with that? Two words — parallel trade — the term Europeans use for drug importation. Senator Vitter may only want drugs “from Canada” — but that’s impossible — because EU law makes it so. According to the Treaty of Rome, parallel trade is completely legal and Articles 30 and 36 prohibit manufacturers from managing their European supply chains in their own or patients’ interests.
Sorry Senator, the truth is inconvenient.
Last year 140 million individual drug packages were parallel imported throughout the European Union — and a secondary wholesaler repackaged each and every one. (The same type of secondary wholesaler that we are trying to eliminate in the US because of their role as “weak link in the chain” — the chain of custody that is.)
This means that, literally, parallel traders in Europe open 140 million packets of drugs, remove their contents and repackage them. But these parallel profiteers are in the moneymaking business, not the safety business. And mistakes happen. For example, new labels incorrectly state the dosage strength; the new label says the box contains tablets, but inside are capsules; the expiration date and batch numbers on the medicine boxes don’t match the actual batch and dates of expiration of the medicines inside; and patient information materials are often in the wrong language or are out of date. Oops.
Vogue. Strike a pose.
This means that drugs purchased from a British pharmacy to an unknowing American consumer (or a blissfully ignorant United States Senator) could come from European Union nations such as Greece, Latvia, Poland, Malta, Cyprus, or Estonia. In fact, parallel traded medicines account for about 20% (one in five) of all prescriptions filled by British pharmacies. In the EU there is no requirement to record the batch numbers of parallel imported medicines, so if a batch of medicines originally intended for sale in Greece is recalled, tracing where the entire batch has gone (for example, from Athens to London through Canada to Indianapolis) is impossible. Caveat Emptor is bad health care practice and even worse health care policy. Safety cannot be compromised, even if the truth is inconvenient.
No time to Vogue.