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'Canadian' drugs offered online rarely from Canada


WASHINGTON - Only about 1 in 5 online pharmacies offering discount prescription drugs from Canada appear to be located in that country, raising concerns that many may be peddling counterfeit or adulterated medications, a report for the Food and Drug Administration has found.

"We are looking at some of these sites to see if they are truly pharmacy sites, or if this is somebody trying to fool consumers," said Thomas McGinnis, the FDA's director of pharmacy affairs. "These sites say Canada and have the Canadian maple leaf on them. But they seem to be coming from places around the world, in which case we have great concerns about the strength, quality and purity of the medications."

Of 1,009 online "Canadian" pharmacies examined by the cyber-security company Cyveillance, only 214 "had any registration data indicating [an] owner address located in Canada," the company said in a news release on its Web site.

Of the remaining 795, more than 85 percent had registration information indicating a U.S. owner, according to data supplied yesterday by company spokesman Todd Bransford. The rest were registered in a variety of countries, including Vietnam and the Czech Republic. Eighty-seven online pharmacies registered in Barbados had mailing addresses in Las Vegas on their registrations.

The FDA may take enforcement action to put some of the sites out of business, McGinnis said.

The Bush administration and the FDA are waging a campaign to counter the importation of low-cost prescriptions from abroad, saying product safety cannot be guaranteed. But importation advocates say it can be done safely through legitimate pharmacies, not questionable online operations.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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