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Truth Through Combat

Importation of Drugs into the United States

The case of Brazil and the global AIDS crisis led eventually to raising a question about the relationship between drugs (and patent rights) and public health. Recently, it has become increasingly clear that the price of drugs in the U.S. is rising rapidly. This has caused people to look for “solutions” to the drug cost problem. The issue under consideration is whether individuals and organizations within the U.S. should be allowed to purchase drugs made outside the U.S. Currently, U.S. law prohibits such purchases.

Should U.S. states violate national U.S. law and seek agreements with generic drug manufacturers for use within their state’s borders? Illinois, Wisconsin, Vermont, Kansas, and Missouri participate in a drug importation program. The federal government–under the coordination of the FDA–is responsible for ensuring the safety of drugs. It does so in this country by inspecting drug laboratories, something it could not do if the lab was in Canada or Ireland. For that reason, it keeps the importation of drugs strictly under ban.

Nonetheless, the individual states named above are seeking ways to lower drug costs, and they figure that one way to do so is to import drugs from nations where the drugs are cheaper. Click here for information from Wisconsin’s program. Here is the FDA page on drug importation.

Regardless of what states are allowed to do, what should individuals be allowed to do? Should they be allowed to take the safety risk involved in purchasing unregulated drugs? Or should the federal government take a hard stance on protecting consumer safety and continue to prohibit drug imports?

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Filed under: Bioethics, Uncategorized

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