U.S drug regulator issues warning about Windsor prescription service

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says CanaRx facilitates "the distribution of unapproved new drugs and mis-branded drugs" into the United States — something the company vehemently denies.

CanaRx describes itself as a 'international prescription service provider'

CanaRx connects American patients with prescriptions with dispensing pharmacies in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. (CBC)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come out swinging against a Windsor-based company.

The agency, which serves a similar role as Health Canada and the Canada Food Inspection Agency, recently posted a warning letter about CanaRx, warning American consumers that it facilitates "the distribution of unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs to U.S. consumers."

CanaRx, which was founded in 2002, describes itself as the first "international prescription service provider" in the United States. While commercial importation and resale of cheaper prescription drugs is illegal in that country, CanaRx uses an exemption known as "personal importation."

Essentially, the company acts as a broker between American consumers and pharmacies in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, where drug costs are significantly lower. Users of CanaRx's services work for public or private sector employers who have a benefits agreement with the company.

Joseph Morris, CanaRx's Chicago-based lawyer, said the FDA's warning letter came "out of the blue."

"Not only does the FDA warning letter not specify any actual incident where anything went wrong, but in the media Q&A last week ... they admitted to reporters that they had not received any complaints or reports of bad medicine or other problems involving the CanaRx program."

Morris speculated that the FDA's sudden interest in the company has something to do with the ongoing political debate over the high cost of prescription drugs in the United States, noting that both Republicans and Democrats have been talking about embracing services that allow consumers to import cheaper drugs from foreign countries.

The lawyer stressed that CanaRx is not an online pharmacy that dispenses to anyone.

"This a not a case where a self-diagnosing patient is going on the internet and shopping for drugs without a prescription," he said. "Every single transaction that CanaRx is involved in must have a written prescription from a U.S. doctor who is treating that particular patient."

Morris added that his client only dispenses name-brand drugs, which tend to cost much more than generics, and doesn't assist in the dispensing of opioids, controlled substances or "lifestyle" drugs such as Viagra.

In a letter posted on the company's website, CanaRx CEO G. Anthony Howard stated the FDA's letter contained "a number of serious inaccuracies and misstatements" and noted that the "pharmaceutical industry's profits in the United States are the highest in the world."

The company is working on a legal response to the regulatory agency's warning.

About the Author

Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email


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