FDA, pharmacists launch campaign to warn about drugs from Canada

Thursday, February 5th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Pharmacy groups and the Food and Drug Administration started a campaign Wednesday to warn consumers that buying drugs from Canada can be dangerous.

The organizers cited Gov. Rod Blagojevich's efforts to get approval to buy such drugs for state employees and retirees as a reason for the campaign.

``It seems like the governor of Illinois is being more aggressive than other states,'' said Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, which represents state pharmacy regulators.

Blagojevich has said the program would save the state money and would include protections against dangerous drugs. He has been pushing the Bush administration to lift its ban on Canadian drug imports.

Organizers said the campaign by the Food and Drug Administration, the national pharmacy group and the Illinois Pharmacists Association marks the first time a state organization has requested permission to distribute FDA literature on the risks associated with imported drugs.

``We hope other state pharmacy societies and other consumer associations will approach us'' to do the same, said Thomas McGinnis, director of Pharmacy Affairs in the FDA's Office of Policy.

At a news conference, he and others said there are problems with buying drugs from Canada, including the threat that consumers could get dangerous or ineffective counterfeit drugs and never know it.

``If somebody dies of a heart attack, their cholesterol goes up, they have a stroke, it's chalked up'' to their disease, and not that they're not getting the right medications, said Scott Drabant, president of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, which is paying $50,000 to $65,000 for the campaign.

Blagojevich countered that the FDA is a big reason why such a program is necessary.

``We can have savings and safety if the FDA starts acting on behalf of the American consumers and stops acting as a guardian for the big drug companies,'' the governor said. ``It has allowed the big drug companies to price gouge consumers and now the FDA is trying to scare American consumers and taxpayers to death.''