Canada: A Haven for Internet Pharmacies and Organized Crime

In 2005, the FDA launched an investigation into pharmaceuticals bought from “Canadian” internet pharmacies online and shipped to US consumers. Of 1700 packages these pharmacies supplied, fully 85 percent of those actually came from somewhere else, but 15 percent really came from Canada.  Worse, 32 of the drugs were found to be counterfeit.  All of these pacakges were entering the US illegally, so it is interesting to ask, why is there a Canadian theme—both authentic and copied by others—to the internet pharmacy business?

We recently published an article with some answers to this question – read it (
here) . Canada gained a reputation for internet pharmacy when it became big business around the turn of the century (yielding about $400 million annually by 2003) when Andrew Strempler, Kris Thorkelson, and others from the province of Manitoba discovered the wealth to be made from selling prescription drugs to Americans who could capitalize on favorable exchange rates and price controls north of the border.

At first the products that these Canadian internet pharmacies sold were legitimately sourced in Canada and approved by Health Canada, but later, the internet pharmacies began sourcing medicines from farther afield, such as India or Turkey—places where medicines entirely bypass Health Canada and its safety regulations.  Doing so is unequivocally illegal in Canadian law.
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