Elizabeth, who is from California, periodically gets migraine headaches. To treat them, she is prescribed brand name Relpax (elitriptan), but finds that the drug is too expensive in the U.S., so she chooses to import the same drug at a much lower price. Despite federal restrictions, most medicines that are imported for personal use reach the patient. But not always. In Elizabeth’s case, instead of receiving her medication, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) destroyed the medication after it was detained at an international mail facility (IMF). She gave Prescription Justice the green light to tell her story.
Earlier this week, Prescription Justice founder Gabriel Levitt published an article in The Nation entitled, “Is the FDA Misleading Congress About the Safety of Imported Medicines?”. While we advocate for policies and legislative reforms to bring down drug prices here in the U.S., the article highlights the fact that personal prescription drug importation is already a lifeline for millions of Americans who can’t afford their medications here.
“Pursuant to the evidence and reasons given above, I believe my testimony overcomes the FDA’s public health justifications for refusing my medication order and ask that you release it to me. If you don’t then my health may be jeopardized because I can’t afford it locally.” Letter from a patient to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) whose arthritis medicine was detained, and subject to refusal by the FDA. Each year, a few million Americans import lower cost medicines because the prices are lower, despite the federal restrictions. Most such orders are received, at least when patients have valid prescriptions, but the FDA has the authority to refuse and destroy them.
A group of over 50 healthcare providers, including physicians, nurses and physician assistants, have come together to demand the federal government stop any action that would restrict access to lifesaving medications through personal prescription importation. In a letter sent to President Donald Trump, members of Congress and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the healthcare providers expressed their alarm over FDA’s action in Florida against offices that primarily serve older Americans who prefer in-person assistance with purchasing medications from Canada and other countries, rather than using an internet site.