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    Buying Drugs Online.

    Buying drugs from Canadian online pharmacies can equal big savings, but first know your sources.

    Pharmaceutical Outsourcing continued...

    But advocates for cross-border drug buying point out that most medications purchased from reputable Canadian or European pharmacies are the identical medications -- brand names as well as generics -- that are available at your local drugstore. In addition, those medicines, including some of the blockbuster drugs advertised on the network evening news programs, may be made not just in North America but also in Europe, South America, the Middle East, or Asia.

    "There are about 60 locations where the pharmaceutical industry manufactures all across the world," Albano tells WebMD. "Lipitor, for example, comes from Ireland, is manufactured and shipped to the United States and then shipped to Canada. And some Lipitor goes right from Ireland to Canada, so this whole notion that Canadian medications are not safe is simply ludicrous."

    Barry Power, PharmD., director of practice development for the Ottawa-based Canadian Pharmacists Association tells WebMD that "most drugs are made in one or two global locations and then exported to all the countries, so even the term 'reimportation' is technically incorrect. And there are actually quite a few drugs that are made in Canada, so it's all just a matter of spin-doctoring in a lot of cases."

    Mayor Albano had confidence in the source of the lower-cost drugs his city offered to municipal employees and retirees because he had done his homework, he says. "Before we started the program officially in Springfield, I went to Canada and went to the pharmacies. I spoke to the pharmacists, and then we started my son on his insulin and related products three months prior to the official beginning of the program. The idea was that it's a medication that you have to take precautions with, and I thought my public employees would realize that 'if it's good enough for the mayor's family, then it would be good enough for me.'"

    As for the regulatory authorities, Albano says that the FDA made a lot of noise at the time the program was announced but took no real action to stop it. Since then, many city and state governments have implemented or announced similar plans. The FDA has continued to shy away from enforcing regulations in many cases.

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