Are grandma and grandpa now the newest targets in an expanding war
An operation allegedly under way in Miami -- supposedly being spearheaded
by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) -- seems to indicate that elderly
folks are indeed in the dragnet zone.
As part of that operation, CBP, which is part of the Department of Homeland
Security, is seizing Canadian shipments of legally prescribed drugs that are
being flown into the international mail facility at Miami International Airport,
according to Mark Conrad, a retired U.S. Customs supervisory special agent.
Conrad, now an attorney, serves as the associate general counsel for the National
Association of Federal Agents. He says the information about the seizure program
was brought to his attention by a whistleblower, who does not want to go public
out of fear of retaliation.
Officials from CBP’s public affairs office in South Florida did not return
a phone call seeking comment on the operation.
The medications being seized, Conrad adds, are bound for delivery to elderly
people who have ordered them from Canadian providers.
Due to the extremely high cost of many prescription drugs in the United States,
many senior citizens cannot afford to pay for their medications, absent ordering
the drugs, often over the Internet, from lower-cost Canadian vendors.
Although ordering prescription medicines from Canada is technically illegal,
U.S. officials have, for the most part, looked the other way in terms of broad
enforcement. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has previously ordered
targeted seizures of prescription drugs shipped from overseas.
William Hubbard, the FDA’s associate commissioner of policy and planning,
stated the following in a March 10, 2005, Bloomberg News wire story:
The FDA can target particular shipments, Hubbard said. The agency seized about
450 packages in July from [a] Canadian Internet pharmacy, CanadaRx.net, that
passed through the Bahamas, Hubbard said.
Critics of such seizures say the policy threatens the lives of senior citizens
and demonstrates that the U.S. government is carrying water for the pharmaceutical
Drug makers see it differently, of course. Jack Cox, a spokesman for the New
York-based pharmaceutical conglomerate Pfizer, told Bloomberg News that “the
FDA is ‘just enforcing US law.’ “
Conrad says his information on the Miami CBP seizure program is coming from
a source with direct knowledge of the operation. He adds that those involved
in the seizures have been ordered to assist with the program and also are under
orders not to discuss the operation with anyone. He adds that the program has
been ongoing for at least three weeks.
“Customs in Miami is seizing medications shipped in from Canada,”
Conrad says. “Most of this medication is U.S.-made, then shipped to Canada,
and is now simply coming back into the country.”
Conrad says he is not sure if the seizure operation extends beyond Miami at
this time. However, he says the operation was undertaken with no notice to the
public. That means senior citizens depending on this medication are unaware
that the drugs have been seized.
“The [elderly] people who ordered the medication will be getting letters
[from the government] informing them that the shipments have been seized,”
Conrad says. “They have bins and bins of medicine, some of it live-saving
Conrad says drugs on the hit list include blood-pressure, asthma, antidepressant,
heart and cancer medication.
“My understanding is that some cancer medication was seized that requires
refrigeration,” he adds.
Bill Conroy is an investigative reporter and
correspondent for Narco News, where
this article originally appeared. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in Narco News.