Drug shipments to U.S. hold cheap generic Viagra
For years, the Food and Drug Administration has defended its efforts to intercept prescription drugs coming from abroad by mail as necessary to keep out dangerous opioids, including fentanyl.To get more news about ????????
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The pharmaceutical industry frequently cites such concerns in its battle to stymie numerous proposals in Washington to allow Americans to buy drugs from Canada and other countries where prices are almost always much lower.
But the agency’s own data from recent years on its seizure of packages containing drugs coming through international mail provides scant evidence that a significant number of opioids enters this way. In the two years for which KHN obtained data from the agency, only a tiny fraction of the drugs inspected contained opioids.
The overwhelming majority were uncontrolled prescription drugs that people had ordered, presumably because they can’t afford the prices at home.The FDA still stops those drugs, because they lack U.S. labeling and packaging, which federal authorities say ensure they were made under U.S. supervision and tracking.
The FDA said it found 33 packages of opioids and no fentanyl sent by mail in 2022 out of nearly 53,000 drug shipments its inspectors examined at international mail facilities. That’s about 0.06% of examined packages.
According to a detailed breakdown of drugs intercepted in 2020, the lion’s share of what was intercepted — and most often destroyed — was pharmaceuticals. The No. 1 item was cheap erectile dysfunction pills, like generic Viagra. But there were also prescribed medicines to treat asthma, diabetes, cancer, and HIV.
FDA spokesperson Devin Koontz said the figures don’t reflect the full picture because U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the primary screener at the mail facilities.
But data obtained from the customs agency shows it likewise found few opioids: Of more than 30,000 drugs it intercepted in 2022 at the international mail facilities, only 111 were fentanyl and 116 were other opioids.
On average, Americans pay more than twice the price for exactly the same drugs as people in other countries. In polling, 7% of U.S. adults say they do not take their medicines because they can’t afford them. About 8% admit they or someone else in their household has ordered medicines from overseas to save money, though it is technically illegal in most cases. At least four states — Florida, Colorado, New Hampshire, and New Mexico — have proposed programs that would allow residents to import drugs from Canada.
While the FDA has found only a relatively small number of opioids, including fentanyl, in international mail, Congress gave the agency a total of $10 million in 2022 and 2023 to expand efforts to interdict shipments of opioids and other unapproved drugs.
“Additional staffing coupled with improved analytical technology and data analytics techniques will allow us to not only examine more packages but will also increase our targeting abilities to ensure we are examining packages with a high probability of containing violative products,” said Dan Solis, assistant commissioner for import operations at the FDA.
But drug importation proponents worry the increased inspections targeting opioids will result in more uncontrolled substances being blocked in the mail.
“The FDA continues to ask for more and more taxpayer money to stop fentanyl and opioids at international mail facilities, but it appears to be using that money to refuse and destroy an increasing number of regular international prescription drug orders,” which accredits foreign online pharmacies that sell medicines to customers in the U.S. and worldwide. “The argument that importing drugs is going to inflame the opioid crisis doesn’t make any sense.”