Florida Targets Canadian Prescriptions

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TALLAHASSEE, FL - The state Board of Pharmacy media blitz will begin in the fall, and its targets are the Canadian connection storefronts that are rapidly popping up throughout the state. The print and newspaper advertisements also will caution against purchasing medications online.

Earlier this month the board declared such businesses to be pharmacies practicing without a license, though the board and its parent, the Department of Health, don't have the authority to shut them down.

"People need to be aware they are taking a lot of risks if they are going to unlicensed and unregulated pharmacies," said state Department of Health spokesman Bill Parizek, whose agency includes the pharmacy board. "We want to educate the public."

Discount Drugs of Canada founder Earle Turow called the proposed advertisements "a smear campaign."

His company has 43 affiliates in 13 states, including Florida, with plans to open another 50 stores by the end of the year. He and his competitors say their operations are safe, as they neither stock nor mail medications.

Prescriptions and paperwork are faxed from the stores to a Canadian pharmacy, where the orders are filled and sent directly to the customers, who are often seniors on fixed incomes. The business owners say the state is simply trying to protect the profits of U.S. drug firms.

Canadian pharmacies can sell some of the drugs most commonly used by Americans at 30 percent to 50 percent less, as a national health care plan covers its 33 million citizens and the government negotiates bulk medication

On Friday, the U.S. Senate voted to let drugs be imported from Canada and resold at lower prices, as long as it was determined the practice posed no health risks, but the Food and Drug Administration continues to insist it cannot vouch for the safety of Canadian drugs.

Funds for the state's campaign will come from a $5 unlicensed activity fee that pharmacists pay annually when renewing their licenses.