With insurance companies burdening us with higher out-of-pocket costs, patients are constantly looking for ways to save money and reduce our rising health care costs.

One option gaining attention: importing prescription drugs from Canada. This year, 16 states have introduced legislative proposals that would allow some form of prescription drug importation from Canada.

Eh, Canada! That’s basically just Northern Minnesota, or so the thinking goes. What difference does it make if patients cross the border and fill their prescriptions in the land of maple syrup, Mounties and ice hockey?

While it’s true that Canadian doctors, nurses and medical practitioners are every bit as capable as our providers here in the United States, wholesale drug importation poses some big problems for patients.

Drugs advertised as Canadian could be from an unsafe factory in China.

Everything published on the internet isn’t true, including seemingly reputable online prescription drug retailers. Remember those headlines about unsafe baby formula manufactured in China? Chinese factories could be manufacturing your “Canadian” prescription drugs.

Countless American patients have learned the hard way that “Canadian” online pharmacies are often not Canadian.

“An FDA operation in 2005 suggested that just 15 percent of purportedly Canadian online prescription drug purchases originate in Canada,” points our Patients Rising co-founder and executive director Terry Wilcox. “The rest of these drugs come from distant countries, including China and Turkey.”

Patients, especially those living with chronic diseases and life-threatening conditions, should never compromise our health due to high insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

Health Canada to US Patients: Buyer Beware

Canada’s health care system includes extensive regulations to ensure safety and compliance with established medical standards.


Health Canada, the government health care agency that is responsible for ensuring patient safety, says that it cannot guarantee the safety of drugs purchased on these online platforms that advertise themselves as “Canadian.”

In recent years, thousands of patients across the country have been exposed to counterfeit drugs. Some have suffered serious injury, and some have died, as a result.

In the Best Case, Drug Importation Solves Our Health Care Problems for Just 183 Days

Set aside the real safety concerns from drugs advertised as Canadian. Even in the best case, Canadian drug importation isn’t a lasting public policy solution.

Keep in mind: Canada’s population of 37 million isn’t much bigger than the combined size of Florida and Illinois, the two largest states currently pursuing importation legislation.

If just one in five American patients shifted to Canadian prescription drug sources, we’d run out of medications in just 183 days.

Like the United States, Canada is experiencing drug shortages. According to Canada’s C.D. Howe Institute, approximately 1,000 shortages have been reported annually, affecting at least 10 percent of all active drugs in the country.

Patients need relief from the burden of high insurance deductibles and rising out-of-pocket costs. Drug importation won’t deliver meaningful relief for patients in need. We need to cut out the drug middlemen, hold insurance companies accountable, and expand patient access to the treatments they need when they need it.