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Re: is the responsibility of the US government to police its imports of drugs

Re: is the responsibility of the US government to police its imports of drugs

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Posted by SM on June 17, 2000 at 12:20:33:

In Reply to: is the responsibility of the US government to police its imports of drugs posted by MLWhitworth, MD on May 29, 2000 at 19:34:29:

: : : T00-8 Print Media: 301-827-6242
: : : February 2, 2000 Broadcast Media: 301-827-3434
: : : Consumer Inquiries: 301-827-3434

: : :

: : : In recent weeks FDA has issued "cyber" letters -- letters sent electronically via the Internet -- to a dozen operators of foreign-based internet sites that offer to sell
: : : online prescription drugs that may be illegal. The letters warn these website operators that they may be engaged in illegal activities, and informs them of the laws that
: : : govern prescription drug sales in the United States. This is the first time the FDA has used the Internet as a means for reaching those who are potentially violating
: : : the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and it represents a new stage in the agency's efforts to protect the public against illegal and potentially dangerous products
: : : sold through websites.

: : : In each of these internet cases, FDA sent letters electronically to the domain holders for sites it had determined may be engaged in illegal activity such as offering to
: : : sell prescription drugs to U.S. citizens without valid (or in some cases without any) prescriptions. Through various means, the agency has gained the ability to identify
: : : and monitor these sites. These drugs could pose a serious risk to patients, particularly if used without proper medical supervision.

: : : The "cyber" letters sent are electronic versions that are similar to traditional "warning" or "untitled" letters, which the agency has long sent to organizations or
: : : individuals it believes are engaged in violative activities. These letters usually outline the nature of the alleged violation and request a formal response.

: : : The "cyber" letters also provided these foreign operators with an explanation of the statutory provisions that govern interstate commerce of drugs in the United
: : : States, as well as a warning that future shipments of their products to this country may be automatically detained and subject to refusal of entry.

: : : Hard copies of each "cyber" letter are sent to the website operator, the U.S. Customs Service and to regulatory officials in the country in which the operator is based.

: : : To date, FDA has already received one response from a "cyber" letter recipient indicating that it will cease its illegal activities.

: : : FDA may also use this approach in its ongoing efforts to prevent illegal sales of prescription drugs by domestic websites.

: : : Consumers who want information about online pharmacies, or who wish to report websites that they believe may be acting illegally, can contact the FDA through its
: : : Website at

: : : "Cyber" Letters 2000 Homepage

: : Then we get into the difficult area of international law in these matters. Many of these foreign pharmaceutical sales are perfectly legal in their own country, even to U.S. recipients. Plus different countries have widely varying laws as to what is a "prescription" drug. For example, here in the Philippines, antibiotics are over-the-counter; no prescription necessary. Likewise, last time I was in Thailand, Tylenol 3 was over-the-counter. Finally, most countries would resent any heavy-handed American pronouncements on this matter. The way to go is probably through mutual treaty negotiations, maybe many of which are already in place. Besides, isn't it the U.S.'s own problem for their own customs inspectors to monitor what gets mailed into the U.S.? I don't believe the rest of the world has to observe internal U.S. medications laws. Sorry, Doc, not trying to be argumentative; just trying to give a little international perspective on the situation. But whoever orders such items in the U.S. should be forewarned of the legal consequences. It's not the foreign sellers at fault if they are breaking no laws in their own countries. It's the U.S. customer at fault for trying to circumvent the U.S. laws.

: The US government is targeting packages received from certain countries and locations, esp. pharmacies. A person who has ordered narcotics from a foreign country to receive them through the mail, fedex, etc. is in violation of US law and can be charged with a felony, 1-5 years in prison, plus a $10,000 fine per offence. Unfortunately the zero tolerance policy of the US government does prevent many well meaning (but uninformed) individuals suffering in pain from obtaining medications. US drug laws certainly need revision. For instance, 15 years ago only 12% of the US prison population was incarcerated for drugs and now it is 60%. The vast majority are afro-americans who have been selectively targeted by laws which have very stiff penalties for crack cocaine (often with mandatory prison time) while a white collar professional using up to 100 times that amount of cocaine (in the powdered form) has much less penalty and often gets off without any penalty. So our laws are not perfect here. It does surprise me our government is targeting other countries pharmacies when our own laws need drastic revision. Go is the US government. (BTW, even though I abhor nearly everything about Clinton, he did try to rectify the disparity in treatment of cocaine users cited above).

Clinton has "been there, done that" I do believe! Maybe he is sympathetic? When it comes to having empathy for many people who are addicted or just plain in "need", Clinton should be the man!

Interesting story on international drugs. Until the rest of the world knows what is like to be in pain OR addicted to drugs, there will always be a no-tolerance attitude towards them.

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