Blame Canada (and the Rest of the World): The Twenty-Year War on Imported Prescription Drugs


Rising budget deficits and sticker shock over the new Medicare drug benefit have put the issue of prescription drug costs back into the spotlight. The growth in the cost of prescription drugs continues to represent a staggering burden for taxpayer-funded health care programs, even while costs of non-drug health care services have slowed or even decreased. Among the many proposals for cutting prescription drug costs, drug importation is unique. Although bipartisan support for drug importation has existed in Congress for over five years, the federal government continues to maintain that a system of safe and effective drug importation is impossible. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of importation law and legislation as it has evolved over the past twenty years. The paper tells the story of drug importation’s checkered legislative history, beginning with adulterated Guatemalan birth-control pills and culminating with an unprecedented trade embargo by Canadian officials, which may soon prohibit all drug sales to customers in the United States. Additionally, the paper looks at the case law that has arisen from drug importation and describes how consumers and state governments are now turning to the judicial branch to force the federal government to ensure that imported prescription drugs are safe and effective for consumers.


Elder Law | Food and Drug Law | Health Law and Policy | Law and Politics | Legislation | Social Welfare Law

Date of this Version

September 2005