Canadian prescription drug approvals delayed

The Nevada State Board of Pharmacy is waiting for an opinion from the Attorney General's Office before it approves up to five Canadian pharmacies to sell prescription drugs in Nevada. But the opinion could prevent Nevadans from buying these drugs if they are not Food and Drug Administration approved.

The Nevada law passed last legislative session directed the pharmacy board to help Nevadans access Canadian prescription drugs through a state-run Web site.

During this process, inspectors found that the pharmacies only had drugs approved by Health Canada, its version of the FDA, said Louis Ling, general counsel for the pharmacy board. The inspectors didn't find any evidence that the pharmacies had FDA-approved drugs, as specified by Nevada law.

Ling said Monday that they are waiting for the interpretation of this statute, and until then, it isn't known whether Nevadans will have access to state-approved Canadian drugs.

"This has been a learning process to the board," he said. "Until the inspections, we really didn't know precisely how these places operated, which includes where they got their drugs from. Once we had developed the full information by seeing them in operation, and seeing their drugs on the shelves, these questions came up."

Ten Canadian pharmacies applied for state approval in August. That list was whittled down to seven then two pulled out before they could be inspected.

Of the remaining pharmacies, two are in Vancouver, one in Calgary and two in the Winnipeg area. Ling said the inspectors are certain they will approve four of these pharmacies, pending a decision by Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval. The pharmacy board requested the opinion on Sept. 26. Opinions are often available in about a month, he said.

Attorney general spokeswoman Nicole Moon said an opinion draft must be on Sandoval's desk by Oct. 19. It will then go through editing until he's satisfied with the opinion. It will not be a public document because of attorney/client privilege, but the pharmacy board could opt to have it open because of the great amount of public interest in the issue.

This controversy has captured the attention of U.S. Air Force veteran Bill Riordan of Carson City, who is in favor of state-approved prescription drugs.

"We're paying in the U.S. way more for the same drugs," he said Monday. "This is crazy. It's absurd really, and it all gets back to the pharmaceutical companies giving to the lobbyists."

Riordan doesn't use any prescription drugs, but he's thinking about the future - and his friends.

"I know some other people that can use the savings. I know people who have to cut their pills in half, or do without them."

Although Nevadans can access Canadian drugs through the Internet, there is no "state approval" stamped on these drugs. Ling has said that the state approval will make the process easier and the Web site will help consumers pick a safe pharmacy.

Eight states, several cities and the District of Columbia operate similar programs in opposition to the Bush administration's stance that prescription drug imports can be unsafe. Nevada's law to make it easier for consumers to buy prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies went into effect July 1.

n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.


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