As representatives of both Maine’s retail pharmacies and licensed pharmacists, we feel compelled to expand on the recent news stories regarding the CanaRx mail-order pharmacy issue.

Both of our organizations sent letters to the Maine Board of Pharmacy expressing our concern that an out-of-state, out-of-country entity was sending prescription medications without a license from the Maine Board of Pharmacy. The Maine Board of Pharmacy found reasonable grounds to refer the matter to Maine’s attorney general, who determined that CanaRx was not complying with Maine law and ordered it to stop sending prescriptions illegally to Maine people.

The bottom line is both safety and the law. The reason the state of Maine has a Board of Pharmacy, a Board of Medicine and a Board of Dentistry is to ensure standards are met and that providers of health care services are properly licensed to provide safe, dependable health care to the people of Maine.

Maine pharmacies and pharmacists undergo rigorous licensing regulations from both federal and state regulators — rules with which every pharmacy in Maine and every pharmacist in Maine must comply.

A pharmacy license application review by the Maine Board of Pharmacy includes:

Verification of licensure of the pharmacy in other jurisdictions.

Documentation of any suspensions or revocations of federal, state or local government licenses previously held by the pharmacy.

Documentation of the most recent inspection report from the state in which the pharmacy is located.

Additionally, the pharmacy applicant must list the hours of operation of the facility, provide a layout of the store, ensure that plumbing and electrical codes are met and water quality has been assured, among numerous other requirements. The complete application can be viewed here.

None of these necessary checks to ensure public safety through the licensing process were submitted by CanaRx. Pharmaceuticals in the United States have a chain of command to track when and where they were manufactured so that in the event of an incident or adverse reaction, the issue can be addressed swiftly.

We agree that access to health care is important, but it is equally important that the provider of those services is properly licensed. We take issue with the statement that this entity has processed thousands of prescriptions without incident. If there were an incident, who would be informed of that incident, and who would be held responsible? Currently, no one?

CanaRx fills and ships prescriptions not only from Canada, but also from the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. In addition, it has doctors located in those countries that take your Maine prescription and rewrite it in the country where your prescription is being filled. These doctors are not licensed in the state of Maine or in the United States.

We are also concerned that CanaRx’s own website states that, “Although the drugs you receive may look slightly different or have a different name than the one you are used to, for all intents and purposes they are identical.”

If a citizen of Maine takes his or her medication incorrectly and suffers harm because the medicines look different and are labeled by a different name, who is responsible? The unlicensed, foreign pharmacy?

In the end, all we and others asked was that CanaRx operate by the same set of rules to which Maine pharmacies are subject, and that is to receive board approval that they are properly licensed to do business in Maine.

Why CanaRx did not seek this prior approval is a mystery to us.

Curtis Picard is the executive director of the Maine Merchants Association, Maine’s retail trade organization. He can be reached at (207) 623-1149 or at: [email protected]

Kenneth L. McCall III, B.S. Pharm, Pharm.D., is president of the Maine Pharmacy Association. He can be reached at [email protected]

 


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