The Potential Legalization of Imported Drugs, and what 4 Former FDA Commissioners Have to Say About It

Recently, an idea that has surprisingly gained the support of both President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders has triggered alarm and worry among the Food and Drug Administration. The most recent four FDA commissioners have advised both Trump and Sanders against potentially legalizing the importation of drugs to the United States from other countries. Doing this could cause many problems for consumers, exposing them to medications that are fake, substandard, and even contaminated.

On one hand, it is understandable how one could view the importation of drugs from other countries as a positive change in America by allowing Americans to have access to far less expensive medications. Though, at what cost? Robert Califf, Margaret Hamburg, Andrew Von Eschenbach, and Mark McClellan – all former FDA heads who have served under both former presidents Barrack Obama and George W. Bush – have written an open letter to congress stating that allowing this importation will “harm patients and consumers and compromise the carefully constructed system that guards the safety of our nation’s medical products”.

Many who support the drug importation feel that the former FDA heads are exaggerating the risks in order to delay or prevent change, but that is not the case. For example, there are drug distributing companies online who claim to be Canadian, but in all actuality are based in places such as South America, Eastern Europe, and Russia. Because of this, consumers have no reliable way of knowing what they’re taking and whether or not it is safe, nor can recipients know if they are receiving exactly what they have ordered. It’s like playing “Pin The Tail on the Donkey” – you might get it, you might not. This isn’t a game, however. If you don’t correctly pin the tail on this donkey, your health and even your life could be jeopardized to the point of no redemption, which is a huge step backwards in medicine.

Recently Sanders has stated that if the government can ensure complete safety of the food that comes into this country, they can ensure that very same safety for the drugs that come in as well. Though, the former FDA commissioners wrote in their letter that “obtaining sufficient resources and expertise to screen and verify the authenticity of every product destined for American consumers presents enormous challenges,” Additionally, Scott Gottlieb – a physician who the White House has recently announced would be nominated to lead the FDA – feels the same as his predecessors regarding this subject.