Officials Kick Off Golden State Anti-Canadian Drug PR Effort

February 18, 2004 ( - Federal authorities have kicked off a California PR campaign to win the hearts and minds of consumers who might try to purchase their prescription drugs from Canada.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the California Pharmacists Association, plan to distribute pamphlets and other materials to pharmacies and consumers about the dangers of buying drugs from foreign countries, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The lobbying effort comes at a time when a flock of local and state government officials across the country are pushing for ways to help customers buy less expensive drugs from north of the border.

“When you buy drugs online, you’re really putting yourself in a buyer-beware situation,” said Peter Pitts, an associate commissioner with the FDA, referring to the potential of expired, mishandled or counterfeit medications. “We can’t allow the Internet to become the 21st century drug cartel.”

The California Pharmacists Association paid for the printing of 1 million information packets warning consumers about the dangers of buying drugs from foreign countries. The packets will be sent to 1,000 pharmacies statewide for distribution to their customers.

Carlo Michelotti, chief executive of the California Pharmacists Association, would not tell the Chronicle how much the group is spending on the campaign, but he admitted his group has a vested interest. “We have a public health responsibility,” he said. “Safety is the issue.”

A groundswell of support for buying drugs from Canada has been building throughout The Golden State. Assemblyman Dario Frommer, (D-Los Angeles), and Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, (D-San Francisco), have both introduced proposals that would authorize the state to buy drugs in bulk from Canada.

Also, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last month passed a resolution that supports finding a way to import cheaper Canadian prescription drugs to lower costs for San Francisco residents and city employees.

While the FDA has insisted that buying drugs from Canada and other foreign countries is against the law, the agency has admitted it has neither the resources nor the inclination to go after individuals who buy drugs from other countries for personal use. FDA officials say they can’t guarantee the medications people buy online are safe.