Policy Documents

A Legislators and Consumers Guide to Prescription Drug Importation

Merrill Matthews, Jr., Ph.D. and James Frogue –
December 1, 2003

In this pamphlet on prescription drug importation, the authors write that the desire for access to less-expensive prescription drugs has initiated a heated political debate in Washington and state legislatures. Even as the U.S. Justice Department, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) multiply their efforts to stem the influx of counterfeit, diluted, mishandled, mislabeled and unapproved prescription drugs, others with little or no expertise in drug safety are assuring Americans that imported drugs are safe.

This pamphlet answers some of the questions about the safety concerns associated with prescription drug importation and whether consumers ought to have the right to buy imported drugs even if they are aware of the significant risks. In addition, the section entitled “Articles Related to Importation” at the end of the Guide provides newspaper and periodical excerpts from around the world that highlight the growing problems and safety concerns over importation.

The authors conclude that,

We believe that anyone who reads the Guide and the news reports will agree that imported drugs pose a significant threat to the safety of the U.S. prescription drug stock—and that the only proper response is to intensify our efforts to check this threat now, not weaken them by opening the floodgates to imported drugs.