Prescription Drugs: Preliminary Observations on Efforts to Enforce the Prohibitions on Personal Importation

GAO-04-839T Published: Jul 22, 2004. Publicly Released: Jul 22, 2004.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights

American consumers are increasingly drawn to the convenience, privacy, and cost advantages that might be accrued by purchasing prescription drugs over the Internet. However, there is growing concern about the safety of the drugs and the lawfulness of shipping the drugs into the United States through international mail and private carriers. Under current law, the importation of prescription drugs for personal use is illegal, with few exceptions. All prescription drugs offered for import must meet the requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and those that are controlled substances also must meet the requirements of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act. According to the agencies responsible for enforcing these laws, prescription drugs imported for personal use generally do not meet these requirements. The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Health and Human Service's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are responsible for inspecting and interdicting unapproved prescription drugs that are being illegally imported via the U.S. mail or private carrier. This testimony reflects our preliminary observations from ongoing work to assess federal efforts to enforce the prohibitions on personal importation of prescription drugs.

Full Report