CBS, NBC Ignore Fact That Drug Importation Is Illegal

CBS, NBC Ignore Fact That Drug Importation Is Illegal
Networks fail to explain the facts behind idea for getting prescriptions from Canada.

by  Todd Drenth
June 30, 2005

     CBS and NBC continue to report that drug importation may be a quick fix for high domestic prescription drug costs while ignoring that it is illegal and largely neglecting potential consequences.

     Canada Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh announced Wednesday June 29, 2005 that Canada cannot be the drugstore for the United States and that Canada would begin legislative efforts to limit exportation of prescription drugs from Canada to the United States. The announcement returned drug reimportation, a major issue in the 2004 election campaign, to the news.

     CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer led off the June 29, 2005, story, lamenting We pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs in this country. Reporter Mika Brzezinski followed with a summary of coverage of the issue: For years now, we have been telling you about seniors crossing the border to buy cheaper prescription drugs in CanadaEven entire cities helped employees cut their drug costs by mail ordering their prescription from Canada.

     Neither Schieffer nor Brzezinski mentioned that it is illegal to import drugs from Canada or other foreign nations. This isnt the first time this has been downplayed or criticized by the major networks. The NBC Nightly News report on the same night, also neglected to make that point.

     On Feb. 8 2005, the NBC Today show reported that the Food and Drug Administration was cracking down from the angle that some people are finding their medicines do not make it home. NBC interviewed 81-year-old Charles Netzo who said he ordered his prescriptions from Canada and thought it was ridiculous and frustrating to learn the FDA had confiscated his medicine.

     Its illegal to import drugs from Canada, where prices are much lower, said NBC reporter Kevin Tibbles, Still, Netzo says he had no choice. The Today story also featured another unidentified man who alleged that the FDA is on the drug companies side. And they are not on the consumers side. Matt Lauer then interviewed Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D Ill.) who supported importation legislation. The entire segment contained a single statement from the FDA explaining what NBC called random seizures.

     The FDA opposes reimportation because it cannot guarantee that drugs from abroad are safe. In a press release issued July 13, 2004, FDA Acting Commissioner Lester D. Crawford said that The test results of our analyses offer proof positive that buying prescription drugs online from unknown foreign sources can be a risky business Consumers who believe they are getting equivalent products from reputable sources are being misled and putting their health at risk.

     Networks also rarely explained why drugs are cheaper in Canada and Europe. Unlike the United States, Canada and some European nations regulate drug prices. Canada, has regulated the maximum price patented drugs can be sold as determined by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB).

     The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on drug importation on April 29, 2004 where it concluded that drug prices are a result of consumer demand, income, and government regulation. In some places, people arent able or willing to pay the prices Americans can, so the CBO concluded: Instead of charging a high price and selling only a small quantity of a drug in such a foreign market segment, patented drugmakers lower their prices.

     The networks largely ignored whether drug importation will result in a general decrease in prices. The CBO report concluded that permitting the importation of foreign-distributed prescription drugs would produce at most a modest reduction in prescription drug spending in the United States. It went on to state that over the next 10 years complete legalized drug importation would only reduce overall drug spending by an estimated 1 percent and if limited only from Canada would produce a negligible reduction in drug spending.