FDA Order Stops Seniors From Getting Canadian Drugs

CLEVELAND (AP) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered a Canadian pharmacy to stop shipping medications to the United States.

The FDA's action has stopped some Ohio seniors from getting less expensive prescriptions from across the border.

Phillip Abookire, 79, of Avon Lake, recently got a warning letter from the FDA after receiving a refill from Hunter's Pharmacy in Windsor, Ontario.

"I got this letter from the FDA that said the drugs might be counterfeit and other bogus claims," he said. "It's as phony as the day is long. The prescriptions are exactly the same, the companies are the same, everything is the same."

Michael Hunter, owner of Hunter's Pharmacy, has stopped shipping medications into the United States after receiving a letter from the FDA that he said leaves him no other choice.

The letter, dated June 5, said shipments "appear to contain unapproved and misbranded prescription drugs" that could not be imported. It said the FDA had issued warnings to U.S. consumers and U.S. Customs regarding possible safety concerns.

Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he was not surprised that Hunter's Pharmacy was targeted by the FDA, given the amount of business it does with residents of northern Ohio and Michigan.

Brown said the FDA is reacting to the drug industry lobby.

"The drug industry recognized they are losing money through mail sales," he said. "They are cracking down on seniors who are desperately trying to save money while offering no solutions."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said the FDA action sounded "ridiculous," given Canada's regulatory standards and the strength of the drug lobby.

"The reason why people send to Canada and take bus rides to Canada for prescription drugs is that Americans are paying more than people do in any other country," he said.

Michael Wirth, the FDA compliance officer in Buffalo who sent the letter, said he had no comment. The FDA press office in Washington also declined to comment.

Fred Solomon, 75, of Lyndhurst, learned earlier this week that Hunter's could not mail his wife's four prescription refills.

The Solomons save more than $2,000 a year by purchasing her drugs from Hunter's, he said.

"I guess we're going to have to drive up to get them, or take the bus," Solomon said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)