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7/9/2004
Press Release

ASHP Takes Strong Stand on Dangers of Drug Importation

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) recently approved a policy delineating its general position on the controversial issue of drug importation. The policy, endorsed by ASHP's House of Delegates during the Society’s Summer Meeting, June 19-23, strongly advocates for the continuation of drug importation laws and regulations enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state boards of pharmacy.

“We are very sensitive to the negative effects of rapidly rising medication prices on all Americans. But we believe that the substantial public health risks posed by importing medications from other countries—which would significantly increase opportunities for counterfeiting—far outweigh the economic benefits of cheaper medications,” said ASHP President T. Mark Woods, Pharm.D., FASHP.

The policy highlights the dangers of importation, including an increased likelihood that counterfeit medications will enter the nation’s drug supply and the weakening of important safeguards such as the patient-pharmacist relationship and medication counseling, particularly for high-risk patients on multiple medications.

According to the FDA, counterfeit drug investigations have quadrupled since 2000. The World Health Organization estimated in 2000 that about eight percent of bulk drugs imported to the United States are counterfeit, unapproved, or substandard.

“As this public debate continues, it’s important for consumers to understand that there is no magic bullet to the problem of escalating drug prices, including importing medications from Canada,” said Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D., ASHP executive vice president and CEO, pointing to reports that consumers who believed they were ordering medicines from Canadian pharmacies instead received non-FDA approved drugs from other foreign countries.

Woods added that ASHP is “very concerned about the possibility that patients will receive medications that are past their expiration date, are sub- or super-potent, contain the wrong dose, are contaminated or counterfeited, or have been improperly stored or shipped. The consequences to the patient who uses these products can be irreparable harm or even death.” 

ASHP’s policy on the importation of pharmaceuticals is as follows:

“To advocate for the continuation and application of laws and regulations enforced by the Food and Drug Administration and state boards of pharmacy with respect to the importation of pharmaceuticals in order to (1) maintain the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain and avoid the introduction of counterfeit products into the United States; (2) provide for continued patient access to pharmacist review of all medications and preserve the patient-pharmacist-prescriber relationship; and (3) provide adequate patient counseling and education, particularly to patients taking multiple high-risk medications; further, to urge the FDA and state boards of pharmacy to vigorously enforce federal and state laws in relation to importation of pharmaceuticals by individuals, distributors (including wholesalers), and pharmacies that bypass a safe and secure regulatory framework.”

ASHP is the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, ambulatory care clinics, long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care systems. ASHP, which has a long history of medication error prevention efforts, believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the best use of medicines.  Assisting pharmacists in fulfilling this mission is ASHP's primary objective.  The Society has extensive publishing and educational programs designed to help members improve their professional practice, and it is the national accrediting organization for pharmacy residency and pharmacy technician training programs.  For more information, visit ASHP’s Web site, www.ashp.org or www.safemedication.com.