[MKE - Indymedia] Feb. 7th News: Republican George Bush FDA takes away the medications of our elderly.
russels2uwm at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 7 00:58:11 PST 2005
U.S. snares patient's drug from Canada
FDA confiscates Lipitor en route to Fox Point man, 81, deeming it 'unapproved'
By JOHN FAUBER
jfauber at journalsentinel.com
Posted: Feb. 6, 2005
For three years, Charles Netzow has kept his cholesterol under control more affordably with drugs mailed to him from a pharmacy in Canada.
Charles Netzow, 81, of Fox Point recently had his prescription for Lipitor, which he gets through the mail from Canada from Minit Drug, intercepted and confiscated by the FDA.
By The Numbers
$40 to $70
Amount that Charles Netzow says he saves on each 90-day supply of Lipitor from Canada, compared to the best price he can get in Wisconsin
Im angry because its nonsense.
- Charles Netzow,gets his prescriptions from Canada. But when his latest 90-day supply of Lipitor didn't show up when it was supposed to, the 81-year-old Fox Point resident was concerned.
He became even more upset after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told him his Lipitor had been confiscated.
"I'm angry because it's nonsense," Netzow said.
Netzow apparently got caught up in a nationwide effort to prevent Americans from buying cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. It's a controversy that pits states and seniors against the FDA and drug companies.
"It's this continued harassment by the FDA toward American citizens," said Gov. Jim Doyle after being told of Netzow's case. "I wish they would get on the side of this gentleman rather than the drug companies."
The FDA would not comment specifically on Netzow's case.
A notice the agency sent him on Jan. 27 indicated that his 90 tablets of Lipitor were confiscated by its Chicago office because the drug was an "unapproved new drug." Lipitor is neither unapproved nor new. It has been one of the most popular cholesterol-lowering drugs in the United States for years.
However, the agency defined unapproved as including any drug made in another country and imported to the United States, or any drug made in the United States, which then is exported to another country and re-imported into the United States.
"Those drugs (from Canada) are not FDA-approved, so it's a violation of federal law," said Tom McGinnis, director of FDA pharmacy affairs. "It's really hard to say what the pedigree is."
An official with Minit Drugs, the Calgary pharmacy that has been selling Lipitor to Netzow, said the drug is the same as Lipitor sold in the U.S. and Canada. Lipitor sold in all of North America is made at a single plant in Ireland, said Barney Britton, president of Minit.
"It's the identical pill from the same production line," Britton said. "It's just labeling (that's different)."
Britton said Minit has about 2,300 regular customers in Wisconsin and about 5,700 in Illinois. In December and January, the FDA confiscated 50 packages out of the Chicago office, which serves both Illinois and Wisconsin, he said.
McGinnis said the FDA has no way of determining whether the drugs coming from Canada are the same as the drugs sold in Canada, although he acknowledged that the agency has not found any counterfeit drugs coming from Canadian pharmacies.
He said he did not know how many drug packages have been confiscated in recent months.
He said the agency has 13 offices nationwide, each staffed with one to four people, inspecting packages coming in from foreign countries.
"We do periodic blitzes," he said.
Doyle, an advocate of access to cheaper online Canadian pharmacies, said he had no doubt that the drugs Netzow has been getting are the same drugs sold in the U.S.
Since last February, Wisconsin residents have been able to buy drugs from Canada as part of a Web-based program set up by the state, one that the FDA warned was illegal. In October, the program was expanded to include pharmacies in Ireland and the United Kingdom as part of a joint arrangement with Illinois.
Doyle said he believed the FDA was confiscating drugs because of pressure from drug companies.
"The Bush administration has really put pressure on Canada to shut this down," Doyle said. "The real question for the FDA and the Bush administration is, 'Why don't you get on the side of the people?' "
He said if the FDA wanted to, it easily could check out Canadian online pharmacies to make sure they are selling legitimate drugs.
A spokesman for Pfizer, the maker of Lipitor, acknowledged that the Pfizer plant in Ireland makes Lipitor for the U.S. and Canada. Bryant Haskins, the spokesman, said he believed a plant in Puerto Rico also supplies some Lipitor to the U.S.
Haskins said Pfizer does not ask the FDA to confiscate drugs coming into the U.S. from Canada.
"Our role is not to ask the government to do what the government by law is required to do," Haskins said.
Haskins said he did not know of any counterfeit drugs coming into the U.S. from Canadian online pharmacies. However, he said there are sellers that purport to be based in Canada but actually are offshore operations. Those operations may be selling illegal generic drugs made in places such as India, he said.
In addition, Pfizer has a program that allows people without prescription drug insurance to get substantially discounted Pfizer drugs.
For those with moderate incomes, that amounts to a 37% discount off the retail price in the U.S., about the same as any Canadian discount, said Pfizer spokesman Jack Cox. For those with higher incomes, the savings still is substantial, he said.
For Netzow, who also buys the Pfizer arthritis drug Celebrex and the blood-pressure drug Altace from Canada, the savings amounts to about 30%.
"From the very best Walgreens price, I'm saving between $40 and $70 on each 90-day supply," he said. "It's the easiest thing in the world. My doctor faxes them the prescription just as he would for a local drugstore."
Netzow said he has no doubt that he is getting real Lipitor. He noted that his cholesterol has stayed under control since he began buying from Canada.
"It's a hell of a placebo if it isn't the real thing," he said.
The FDA said it will send Netzow's package back to Canada.
And Netzow already has been told the pharmacy will send him a new shipment free of charge.
"Maybe they'll pack it in a Victoria's Secret box," he said.
>From the Feb. 7, 2005, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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