Periodically, we get asked about the safety of Canadian Internet pharmacies. We recently ran across a website, oaktreecanadianpharmacy.com, that illustrates our concerns pretty well.
At first glance, oaktreecanadianpharmacy.com looks like it must be a legitimate, safe Internet pharmacy. It says “All prescriptions dispensed by Granville Pharmacy,” and provides an address in British Columbia. It has the name and picture of the licensed pharmacist, Dawn Polley. Indeed, the pharmacy in question, Granville Pharmacy, has a pharmacy license.
But then, dig a bit deeper. First, the FAQs ask, “Do you ship to Canada?” The answer: “At this time we do not ship any of our products to Canada.” Huh? We thought that all of the prescriptions were dispensed by “Granville Pharmacy” in British Columbia. Why would a legitimate Canadian pharmacy not ship to addresses in Canada?
The answer is that Granville Pharmacy isn’t providing US residents drugs from the same source that Canadian customers receive drugs from. To be clear, if you are in Canada, Granville Pharmacy most likely provides drugs that are “Health Canada-approved.” But if you are in the US, at least some of the drugs do not come from the same source or supply chain. In other words, they can’t ship drugs ordered from this website to Canada because the drugs aren’t really approved in Canada, so they’d potentially be violating Canadian law if they did so.
What typically happens with licensed Canadian “International” Internet pharmacies is, the orders will be routed to a supply center outside of either the US or Canada, such as in Turkey, Barbados, India or elsewhere, and then shipped to US residents. The drug costs are lower than they would be for genuine Health Canada-approved drugs from the actual Canadian pharmacy, which improves the profit margin for the pharmacy. This would not be legal for orders shipped to Canada, which is why the website won’t accept orders shipped to Canada. It also isn’t legal in the US, because the drugs are considered unregulated, falling outside of the FDA-approved supply chain. In short, the drugs may be perfectly safe and genuine, or they may not be – and pharmaceuticals that are substandard, adulterated, knock-offs or even counterfeit have been found in the supply of drugs sourced this way.
So why don’t the authorities crack down on this? Well, because the “pharmacy” is outside US jurisdiction, US-based pharmacy regulators have no authority to stop it; because the customer/patient is outside Canada, the Canadian authorities have no jurisdiction to stop it.
In addition to the fact that the drugs are considered unregulated, it’s important to note the lack of transparency. Combining the domain name, the address in Canada, the pharmacy licensed in Canada, and the picture of a Canadian pharmacist, everything about the website is designed to reassure Internet users that the drugs are coming from Canada, and that US residents are getting the same assurances of safety and authenticity that a Canadian resident would receive. But if that were the case, why wouldn’t the website accept orders from Canada?
Furthermore, consider the domain name registration for oaktreecanadianpharmacy.com. Instead of being openly registered to Granville Pharmacy, it utilizes an anonymous domain name registration service with an address in Madiera, Portugal. It’s not unreasonable to ask why – and what the domain name registrant wants to keep hidden from the public.
Although it wouldn’t make it legal or safe, oaktreecanadianpharmacy.com should be open and transparent about the source of drugs. If the drugs come from India, Turkey, or elsewhere, Granville Pharmacy should state that up front – not disseminate information leading Internet users in other countries to believe that they are being afforded the same drug safety protections that Canadian residents receive.