Health & Medical Political

Free Trade War Against Seniors

A back injury forced 56-year-old Kay Overton from her life as a physical therapist. Afterward, she dedicated herself to helping seniors buy affordable medicine from Canada. She never imagined being square in the sights of the Criminal Division of the Federal Drug Administration. Now she finds herself in the FDA’s free trade war against seniors.

Today this Yazoo City, Missouri grandmother says she should have seen it coming.

Since 2001, Big Pharma and its FDA lackeys have been at war with seniors. They aren’t encouraging those who couldn’t afford to pay US drug prices to buy instead in Canada. The FDA has lied, connived, even spent millions of taxpayer dollars on patently false advertising. All are designed to scare us silly about the safety of affordable medicine.

Starting in 2002, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and others – in the name of US customer safetycut off drug supplies to exporting Canadian pharmacists, forcing many of them to ship medicine from Europe and elsewhere, thus complicating Canadian drug safety procedures.

President Bush, ever helpful to his Washington drug-buddy contributors, even flew to Ottawa to lobby Canada’s Prime Minister to stop this free trade.

When all else failed to halt the inflow of affordable drugs, the FDA last November boosted confiscations at the border. Canadian pharmacies sent replacements at no cost. However, this dangerous harassment blocked tens of thousands of elders from their lifesaving medicine.

This incensed even our Republican-controlled Congress. Despite administration roadblocks, both the Senate and the House voted overwhelmingly to stop federal agents from their life-threatening mischief.

But the outrage didn’t stop. The Senate voted 68 – 32 to block federal agents from seizing personal prescriptions mailed from Canada. The day after, the FDA snubbed Congress by grabbing incoming drugs faster than Tom DeLay snatched bribe money.

Stealing a Nickel from Pharma

These last few weeks have seen the largest FDA border confiscation of medicine ever.

Not that there aren’t disreputable Internet sites selling questionable drugs, often without a doctor‘s prescription. But apparently, the FDA isn’t blocking those. No, the agency is out to curb law-abiding registered Canadian pharmacies from helping US citizens save a few bucks.

Why? Easy! It might steal a nickel from Pharma’s huge profits, always among the highest of any US industry.

Kay Overton got indirect word that the Maryland FDA Office of Criminal Investigation was asking questions about her. She first thought it was a joke, then was astonished, terrified, and finally outraged.

“I felt helpless, even hopeless,” she remembers.

Then, with all the cheek that made the word “McCarthyism” synonymous with unfair and unfounded accusations, the FDA published a press release.  It was warning seniors that the agency had found counterfeits in ten top-selling drugs imported by Canada’s mail-order pharmacists.

The FDA failed to provide any proof. According to The Canadian International Pharmacy Association, the FDA never notified RxNorth that it was under investigation, never called to warn RxNorth of any health-threatening issue when they supposedly found that first “unsafe” drug.

Every day since RxNorth has called asking the FDA for details. It’s offering to share the pharmacy’s ongoing and extensive testing results. It’s even inviting the FDA to inspect RxNorth’s facilities.

The FDA’s only response has been to continue to confiscate RxNorth’s imports to the US citizens*.

When Counterfeit isn’t Counterfeit

Is RxNorth guilty as charged? Who knows? And that’s what’s so dangerous about these FDA Gestapo techniques. (Or are they dumb Keystone Kops? They never replied to my calls and questions.)

No one even knows what the FDA means by “counterfeit”. In the past, this federal agency has called a drug “counterfeit” when it is the exact same drug. The same company makes the drug; only individually packaged to safer Canadian standards. Or when labels are written in both French and English.

If this smear campaign was intended to hurt RxNorth, it’s working. They’re not selling any of the 10 drugs until this is cleared up.

Kay’s little company, NorthCountryRx, sponsor of this Suddenly Senior column for many years, also was named. You see, this Mississippi Delta grandma is the US affiliate of RxNorth. She mails customers forms, assists folks wherever possible. The Manitoba registered pharmacy fills the prescriptions.

Sweet Kay has been in the business of helping people all her life. She is now taking it on the chin. Dozens of her customers, many no doubt readers of Suddenly Senior, have e-mailed, “How could you do this to us?”

How, indeed! If I were told that medicine I’d been taking was tainted, I’d be angry, too.

Yet so far, all we have here is McCarthyism at its ugliest.

Free Trade War, Pharma-style

The FDA is an agency with a proud history of independence. Yet now under the complete domination of drug manufacturers, is doing Big Pharma’s bidding by intimidation. Union of Concerned Scientists’ completed a survey on the FDA by 427 members. It found that they “did not respect the integrity and professionalism of the FDA leadership”.

According to polls by two major California TV news outlets, seniors here aren’t buying this latest blast either. After years of experience, they know what’s behind the curtain. They are nothing but the greed and manipulation of the pharmaceutical industry.

There’s a real danger in politicizing regulators like the FDA. Even if there were a real health threat, who would believe them?

I don’t want to scare anyone here. Truth be known it’s the US and our regulators’ failure to demand a manufacturer-to-druggist pedigree. That’s the real problem with counterfeit drugs. According to USA Today, last year we ranked fifth in counterfeit incidents.

Other countries demand accountability from drug manufacturers. Here, Big Pharma refuses any effort in this direction, saying that it would hamper free-trade principles.

Free trade? That’s a good one.

Yet nothing will change as long as our government prevents it. Consider voting to allow safe and affordable Canadian drugs into this country without hassle. Vote to get the FDA back to its job of stopping dangerous drugs like Thalidomide.

Vote to stop neo-McCarthyism.

This time, it can kill.

* Anyone receiving word of confiscated drugs should call their pharmacy immediately for a free refill.

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