Consumer education campaign warning Connecticut residents of the dangers of illegal drug importation

A comprehensive consumer education campaign warning Connecticut residents of the dangers of illegal drug importation has been launched by the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, FDA and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Connecticut became the sixteenth state to join forces with the FDA to launch the "Looks Can Be Deceiving" educational campaign. During a press conference in Hartford, officials from CPA unveiled examples of the more than 40,000 flyers and prescription bag inserts that have been sent to 166 pharmacies across Connecticut.

"FDA has found that the importation of prescription drugs from foreign sources is not safe medical practice and our position regarding importation is based on FDA's concern surrounding the strength, quality and purity of these medications," said Thomas J. McGinnis, R.Ph., Director of Pharmacy Affairs in the Office of Policy at FDA. "The 'Looks Can Be Deceiving' campaign is an outreach effort designed to educate people about the potential risks importation poses to their health and our nation's drug supply. As it is the responsibility of FDA to safeguard public health, we must do everything in our power to inform the American people about the proliferation of importing prescription drugs. This is precisely why FDA has partnered with the CPA to launch this campaign in Connecticut."

With the cities of Springfield and Boston supporting importation, CPA felt it was important to address many of the misconceptions that politicians have been perpetuating about importation. "There are tremendous risks associated with purchasing prescription drugs over the Internet," said Peter Tyczkowski, P.D., MBA, First Vice President of the CPA. "It is because of these risks that CPA has decided to work with FDA and NABP in bringing the 'Looks Can Be Deceiving' campaign to Connecticut. With officials in Springfield and Boston promoting importation we are clearly obliged, as health care providers, to ensure that our patients understand the dangers of taking medicines that have been imported from foreign sources. Specifically, as pharmacists, it is our job to safely dispense medications and look for any potential drug interactions. If individuals choose to break the law and circumvent this process the very important safeguard of having a trained professional who oversees medications and prevents harmful interactions is negated."

FDA, pharmacists and pharmacy regulatory officials across the country are increasingly concerned about the safety risks incurred by individuals who import prescription drugs from foreign countries. In January 2004, FDA announced that a series of examinations of imported drugs found 1,728 out of the 1,982 inspected parcels (89 percent) contained unapproved drugs. This included so-called "foreign-versions" of FDA-approved drugs, recalled drugs, drugs requiring special storage conditions, drugs requiring close physician monitoring, and drugs containing addictive controlled substances. This "snap" inspection follows an inspection in July and August 2003 that found 88 percent of the 1,153 imported drug products studied contained unapproved drugs.

Boards of pharmacy that regulate the practice of pharmacy across the nation are also concerned that by procuring drugs from uncontrolled sources outside the U.S., patients are bypassing important safeguards provided by pharmacists. "In our efforts to assist the individual state boards of pharmacy, NABP supports an integrated safety system that helps to ensure patients are not harmed by the same medications that are meant to help them," said Carmen A. Catizone, MS, RPh, DPh, NABP Executive Director. "Over the years, countless lives have been saved through these safeguards. Unfortunately, the illegal importation of prescription drugs from foreign sources negates these carefully established safety systems."

Also participating in today's press conference was State Senator Thomas A. Colapietro, Chief Assistant Majority Leader, who expressed his ongoing concern for the issues addressed by the campaign. "I have tried in vain to correct the problem of buying drugs on the Internet. I commend the FDA for coming up with a program such as this to educate people about the dangers involved in purchasing prescription drugs online. The possible negative effects of receiving the wrong medication easily outweighs saving some money."

During today's event, consumers were urged to seek out safe alternatives to importation for lowering the costs associated with prescription drugs. "Any individual concerned with the cost of prescription medications should consult with both their doctor and pharmacist," said Marghie Giuliano, Executive Vice President, R.Ph., of CPA. "There are a number of ways a health care consumer can cut down on the price of medicines without risking their life. FDA is speeding the use of generic drugs and there are a variety of programs, federal, state, and even manufacturer, which can significantly reduce cost. The most important thing that cost conscious consumers can do is to speak with their pharmacist before risking their health by purchasing drugs from questionable origins."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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