Caution When Purchasing Foreign Drugs

Many Americans struggling with the rising cost of prescriptions drugs are purchasing their medicines from pharmacies in Canada, Mexico and elsewhere around the world. It is estimated that one million Americans obtain prescription medications outside the United States. Although this practice may offer lower prices in some instances, it is not without hazards. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning regarding buying prescription medications abroad due to the risk of receiving the wrong medication. In the U.S., 7 out of 10 prescriptions are written using the brand name as opposed to generic. An FDA investigation found that many foreign medications, although marketed under the same or similar-sounding brand names as those in the United States, contain different active ingredients. A search produced 18 products with the same or similar brand names in the US and other countries that did not contain the same ingredients. For example, in the US the drug Flomax® contains tamsulosin and is used to treat enlarged prostates. In Italy, Flomax® contains morniflumate, an anti-inflammatory. Errors can be minimized by following physician orders and filling prescriptions at licensed US pharmacies. More information on filling prescriptions abroad can be found at the FDA website