Today's news stories on identifying the apparently deadly fake heparin that adulterated a major U.S. brand of the blood thinner brought back memories: All those dire warnings from the Bush administration about the illegality and danger of buying cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.
Here's Tommy Thompson, former head of HHS, in 2004:
"The importation of drugs [from Canada and elsewhere] remains a long-standing safety concern for the
Department of Health and Human Services, as we currently cannot
guarantee the safety of these medicine."
And Mark McClellan, former head of the Food and Drug Administration:
"We're once again alerting consumers of the risks associated with
buying medications from foreign sources outside of the safe, regulated
systems of the United States and other nations ... Compromising safety
for price is not in the best interest of the American public."
All the while, McClellan was helping dismantle that "safe, regulated system," leaving the FDA unable to inspect the places in China that are actually making heparin and other drugs for the U.S. brands.
And, as Canadian news outlets reported, no heparin-linked illnesses and deaths struck Canadians, and no recall was necessary, even though Canada's heparin is sold under the same Baxter brand:
"'The recall will not impact Canada,' said Health Canada spokesperson
Paul Duschene. 'The heparin in Canada is different. It does not have
the same ingredients.'
"Lan Lai-Minh, director of corporate communications of Baxter Canada,
said none of the vials recalled is sold in Canada. She said the company
makes pre-mixed heparin solution bags in Alliston, Ont., for the
At least the Canadians are polite enough not to throw their safety in the faces of at least 19 grieving U.S. families that lost a member to the "safe, regulated system" that wasn't.