Just got off the phone with a customs official at LAX, trying to get my Pradaxa delivered to me from a Canadian pharmacy. Pradaxa is a blood-thinning drug which has largely replaced Warfarin (Coumadin). Made by a Swiss firm, it is hugely expensive in the U.S. The drug is marketed in Canada under the name Pradax, and is half the price.

Customs refuse to release it to me because, according to the FDA, it is illegal to import drugs across the border. The FDA cannot approve drugs not obtained here, obviously, and I can accept that if I wish to use what they insist on calling an “unapproved” drug, I do so at my risk. But apparently I’m wrong. Even Bayer aspirin, bought from a Canadian pharmacy, cannot be mailed here from Canada without the law being broken. I think I got blue in the face arguing with a lady at the FDA on the legal implications of this. I was assured that Congress had passed a law stating that it was illegal to bring drugs across the border, a domestic prescription notwithstanding.  If she’s right, then this law is absurd, and I’d go so far as to say life-threatening toward those who cannot afford to pay here for their legitimate drug necessities.

Cynics among us might be inclined to see this as government protection of the U.S. drug industry.