Maine, FDA at odds over Canadian Internet pharmacy

Alarm over counterfeits coming into the U.S. through Canadian Internet pharmacies reached new levels this year after a counterfeit version of the cancer drug Avastin made its way here through one. The FBI also caught up with the former owner of one that it had been seeking for several years.

But even as efforts are made to buttress protections against that weak link in the pharmaceutical supply chain, state officials in Maine, including the governor, are working to change the state's legislation so its public employee health programs can keep buying drugs from a Canadian Internet pharmacy.

A recent ruling by the Maine attorney general determined that CanaRx is an international company and so cannot be considered a licensed pharmacy in Maine. CanaRx, in response, shut down its MaineMeds program, reports the Bangor Daily News, which the state was using to cut about $3 million out of state employee healthcare costs. For years, the company has provided mail-order drugs for public employee health plans in Illinois, Vermont, Rhode Island and elsewhere. That is the case even though when it opened in 2003, the FDA sent it a warning letter saying it was illegal for CanaRx to ship drugs to the U.S.

Gov. Paul LePage's office, however, says the governor is looking for a legislative fix so drugs can again make their way to public employees from Canada.

Investigators this year found that at least some of the counterfeits of Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer drug Avastin delivered to physician practices throughout the U.S. earlier this year came through Canadian-tied company.The fakes had salt and starch and some other stuff in them but no active ingredient that would help keep patients alive.

Federal authorities also recently arrested and charged Andrew Strempler, the former owner of Canadian pharmacy, when they caught up with him in Florida. The arrest also followed an FDA warning in May that fake versions of the ADHD drug Adderall, made by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) and other generics companies, had been showing up on Internet pharmacy sites. The short-acting form of Adderall has been in short supply since last year. But instead of Adderall's real active ingredient, at least some fakes contain painkillers, including the potentially habit-forming tramadol.

- here's the Bangor Daily News story

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