Avrim Ben-Izak: Canadian
Drugs - Facts & Myths
Editor's Note: Avrim Ben-Izak is the owner of a storefront
"Canadian pharmacy" on Geary Boulevard. He has been
involved in this business since November 2003 and began doing
research on the Canadian pharmacy phenomenon in 2002. In this
column, he answers some of the most-common questions concerning
buying drugs from Canada.
Q: There is a lot of information floating around about ordering
prescriptions from Canada. What is the real story? Is this
legal or not?
Ben-Izak: There is a law against importing drugs from other
countries - that has been a federal law for years. However,
the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given legal
waivers to people ordering 90-day supplies for personal use
only. So, although there is a law against it, the FDA
is allowing it as long as certain guidelines are followed.
Q: What exactly are those guidelines?
Ben-Izak: Aside from the 90-day supply maximum, schedule
I, II and III drugs are banned. These are narcotic-based drugs,
sleeping pills, pain pills or any medication that can be abused
or is habit-forming.
Q: What about safety? The FDA says they can't guarantee the
safety of drugs from Canada.
Ben-Izak: This is propaganda put out by the drug manufacturers
in collusion with the FDA. Seventy-five percent of the drugs
sold in Canada are manufactured in the U.S. They are shipped
to Canada and re-imported to the U.S. The drugs that are manufactured
in Canada come under the strict control of Health Canada,
which is Canada's version of the FDA. Its guidelines for approving
a drug are at least as strict as the United State's FDA. The
only real variance is that Health Canada usually accepts the
FDA test results of drugs that are approved in the U.S.
Q: If most of these drugs are being re-imported, why can't
we buy these drugs here at the price Canadians pay?
Ben-Izak: The reason is that Canada has price controls. That
is, any manufacturer that wants to sell its drugs in Canada
must sell them for a price set by the Canadian government.
This is because Canada has a form of socialized medicine and
pays for a lot of the population's medical expenses with government
funds. Since the government is the purchaser of the majority
of the drugs sold in Canada, they can set the price.
Q: What about ordering over the Internet or through "800"
numbers. Is it safe?
Ben-Izak: Ordering over the Internet is safe as long as you're
dealing with a reputable pharmacy. How to find a reputable
pharmacy is a little trickier. When I order over the Internet,
I check out the websites that the SF Dept. of Health lists
on its site and research any other sites of interest. I can't
personally recommend any of the "800" pharmacies
that are advertising on various media because I simply haven't
done enough research in this area or know people who have
experience doing this.
Q: What about people who don't have computers or do not want
to use "800" numbers?
Ben-Izak: There are now storefront locations where a person
can go to order from Canada. These types of operations charge
the same as if the client went directly to the Internet to
order. Instead of raising prices, they are paid a referral
fee from the Canadian pharmacy they are doing business with.
Q: Are there any hidden charges?
Ben-Izak: There are no hidden charges. There is a shipping
fee of $14.99, which can include numerous prescriptions. The
fee is per order so it behooves a customer to fill all their
prescription needs at the same time.
Q: How long does it take to get medications from a U.S. store
doing business with Canada?
Ben-Izak: It takes about 10 days and the order is shipped
directly to the client, not to the U.S. business.
Q: How long do you think this cross-border ordering will
Ben-Izak: As long as the drug companies are allowed to overcharge
the American public, this will continue. It has reached a
point where the only way this flood from the north will stop
is for the drug manufacturers to lower their prices to something
close to Canadian prices.
Q: The drug manufacturers claim that they need to charge
high prices to support their research and development. Is
Ben-Izak: Not even close! The drug manufacturers spend only
8 percent on research and development. The federal government
subsidizes the drug companies an additional 5 percent with
our tax dollars (for a total of 13 percent) for their R&D.
These companies spend 16 percent of their income on advertising,
which is double what they spend on research and development.
Q: What do you think the solution will be?
Ben-Izak: The U.S. has to go to a form of socialized or government
subsidized medicine. We are the only developed nation that
does not take care of all of its citizens when it comes to
health care. We are the wealthiest country on Earth, yet a
large part of the population is falling through the cracks
when it comes to health care. With the aging Baby Boomer population
getting older, the problem is only going to get worse.
Ben-Izak's business, Discount Canadian Pharmaceuticals,
is located at 5345 Geary Blvd. For more information, call