Hillary Clinton became the second U.S. presidential hopeful from the Democratic Party to use the Canada-United States pill policy in the 2016 presidential election.
With the rising prices of U.S. prescription drugs, many Americans have sought and continue to seek the same medicines abroad, which are, more often than not, offered at a cheaper price.
The online selling of prescription drugs started when a Canadian pharmacist in Manitoba, Ontario sold Nicorette online to American consumers.
Nicorette is a Swedish brand that sells smoking aids in the form of gums and lozenges that help people quit smoking. The Canadian pharmacist soon realized that selling Nicorette products on eBay rakes in more money compared to the traditional approach of filling prescriptions offline.
Many Americans seek cheaper alternatives on the Internet for what used to be a cheap, generic drug treatment. A tube of Clobetasol cream, for instance, costs roughly $300 a tube. This generic treatment for dry hands can amount to almost $1,000 a year. The same drug is available in Canada for only $30 per tube.
Cases like this push American patients to seek cheaper alternatives for their prescriptions drugs elsewhere. While it is illegal to import drugs from other countries, online prescription drug selling is becoming a prevalent industry, with Canada at the helm of online pharmacy.
With the impending 2016 presidential elections, cross-border pill import and online pharmaceuticals have been put on the spotlight yet again. The dramatic increase of prescription drug prices has also pushed the issue into the headlines.
"If the medicine you need costs less in Canada, you should be able to buy it from Canada—or any other country that meets our safety standards," Clinton said.
She recalled her experience during her time as senator for upstate New York when American seniors would board the bus to Canada every week to buy American-made prescriptions drugs. The same drugs cost relatively cheaper across the border. Clinton added that it doesn't make sense to drive all the way to Canada to buy the drugs you need. She wants to make the drugs available online, legally.
Breaking Borders Can Cause Massive Drug Shortage
The legalization of this widespread online practice would definitely make things easier for many Americans, mostly seniors. However, the online trade comes with potential dangers to both pharmacies and consumers in both countries.
American-Canadian health policy researcher and human rights lawyer Amir Attaran from the University of Ottawa in Ontario worries that U.S. consumers would cause a drug shortage in Canada. This would lead pharmacies to drive up the prices because of a massive shortage.
Steve Morgan, a Canadian health economist from the University of British Columbia, said that legalizing online pharmacies is not the solution to the U.S. price hike for prescription drugs.
Morgan explained that U.S. drug prices are fabricated, with various tactics at play such as discounts from insurance providences and online coupons. These practices, when put together, result in a system to get people to shell out the maximum price they can afford for the price of health.
He theorized that the better government management of American-manufactured drugs would be a smarter solution. As for Canada, he suggested having a uniform pharmaceutical system to avoid any price hike from various pharmacies if there would ever be a drug shortage.
Safety Risk of Buying Prescription Drugs Online
Consumers are advised to become more wary of the drugs they buy over the counter and online. Prior to purchasing online, patients are advised to check if the online pharmacy is a legal one. Companies such as PharmacyChecker.com monitor online pharmacies to ensure that they comply with laws and regulations.
Rogue pharmacies are notorious, and so are the dangers they pose. Fake pharmacies can send consumers a version of the prescription drug not manufactured in the U.S. The labels of the drugs could be fake or contain the incorrect dosage.
Rogue pharmacies can also sell consumers a completely different pill or, worse, a "sugar pill" that has no active ingredients.
Technology has certainly made things easier, but consumers should always keep in mind the dangers lurking in the gray market of online pharmacies.