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Rhode Island became the first state to pass a law allowing Canadian pharmacies to become licensed to sell drugs to state residents.
Rhode Island has become the first state to authorize its pharmacy board to license Canadian pharmacies to ship medications to state residents.
Leery of openly flouting federal regulations banning drug importation, Gov. Donald Carcieri allowed the Canadian pharmacy licensure legislation to become law without his signature last month. All that Canadian pharmacies will now need to become licensed in Rhode Island is a valid license in their home province and payment of a fee to the state. The law becomes effective in January of 2005 and expires on Dec. 31, 2007. The state pharmacy board did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comment on the new law.
The Rhode Island legislature has put the state pharmacy board in a difficult spot by authorizing an end run around the safeguards built into the U.S. drug regulatory system, according to Carmen Catizone, executive director, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. He conceded that Canadian provincial pharmacy regulations are equivalent to U.S. standards but added that licensure of such pharmacies exposes Rhode Island residents to the international pharmaceutical trade.
"There will be little or no monitoring of those pharmacies as to whether they are transshipping products from outside Canada," said Catizone. "Without that monitoring and without requiring them to adhere to the differences between provincial and state laws, it seems almost as if Rhode Island is abdicating its responsibility to the patients. That's our biggest concern."
The issues posed by licensing foreign pharmacies boil down to the lengths to which a state goes to find low Rx prices and to Canadian pharmacies buying drugs outside their government regulatory system for export to U.S. citizens, Catizone said.
"If drugs are cheaper in Bangladesh than in Canada and you can buy them on the Internet, why would you buy them from Canada?" Catizone speculated. "And Canadian pharmacies are having trouble obtaining some products through the Canadian-approved distribution system. They have admitted they're going outside Canada, and there's no protection there for the U.S. citizenno coverage under provincial law to monitor what's happening with those transshipments.
"Rhode Island has thrown open the gate," he said. "They are eliminating state regulation and turning everything over to the country with the lowest prices. This approach is extremely dangerous and is certainly not in the best interests of the patients."
Carol Ukens. Rhode Island first to license Canadian pharmacies. Drug Topics Aug. 23, 2004;148:32.