Ahh… it’s the main question of them all! And it is a wrong one. The subject is very complex and if you are really looking for the truth, you have to ask 2 different questions: Is it legal to SELL generics? And is it legal to BUY generics? Let’s review them step by step.
Is it legal to SELL generics?
Well, I don’t think that you really want to sell them, most likely you are here because you want to buy and use them, right? So I’ll be quick.
Let’s take USA for example. Selling medicines that are not approved by FDA is prohibited on a territory of United States. As well as selling drugs (or any other products) that violate intellectual rights. So yes, selling generics is illegal in US.
But… There is always “but”!
Original concept of generic medications is to provide people in underdeveloped regions an access to modern medicine. That is why patents and exclusive rights for all medications expire, allowing multiple manufacturers to produce the drug. So it makes it legal to produce certain products in countries where it is not protected by copyright or it has expired.
And it is not about small workshops, it’s about major worldwide pharmaceutical players. Take a look at Indian giant Cipla (US$1.27 billion revenue in 2012 according to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cipla) producing generic Sildenafil Citrate known best as Viagra – http://www.cipla.com/Home/Products/Formulations.aspx?mid=1292 (select “SILDENAFIL CITRATE” in “Generic Name” dropdown list and press “Submit”). Officially.
The same goes to sales. In some countries, Sildenafil Citrate is not a prescription drug, so it is legal for them to sell it to anyone, not asking for Rx.
So, depending on a region, it may be legal to produce and sell medicines (as well as any other products) that are not legal to produce and sell in other countries.
Now, is it legal to BUY generics?
Well, most likely you already are a frequent buyer of generic medications, because lots of items in your nearest drug store ARE generic version of originally patented medicines. But their patent has expired and now they are produced by other companies under different brand names.
But is it legal to buy some generic drug online, especially the one that is not approved by FDA (or its equivalent) in your country?
Imagine, you are on vacation. And you came to India. You could go to any pharmacy store there, for example the one located at Dallas Building, Gyan Mandir Road, Opposite Jain Health Centre, Dadar (West), Mumbai, Maharashtra. And you could absolutely legally buy whatever they sell. There is no law to stop you from that.
But besides of physical store the have an online store too. It is exactly the same company, exactly the same products, registered and located in India. So what is the difference? They operate in India, according to their legislation and they violate no laws. You are buying from them according to their terms, and after you have paid for the product, they are sending you your own property. Just like if you have accidentally left it there while packing home…
And it is nobodies business what you own, unless it is a controlled substance of course (take time to double check that before buying).
So in most cases it is legal to buy generic medications online. But to be sure about it I suggest consulting your local lawyer and reviewing experience of customers in your particular area.
Then why does FDA and customs do their best to prevent you from buying medicines in other countries? There are two reasons for that.
The first one is the pharmaceutical lobby that protects their revenues by closing access to the national market from foreign rivals. It is a long story and we’ll keep it for some other article.
And the second reason is risk. There really is a strong chance that you will buy something made of elephants poo and god knows what will happen to you after you take that as a pill. But government needs you alive and so they try to protect you by scaring and making obstacles, so that you would not even try to eat anything from abroad. And actually it makes sense.
But it is not the only way.
If you are a reasonable man, you should treasure your health without any additional “help” from anybody else. And that is why you should be extra cautious while considering purchase of generic medication from abroad. But the good news is that THERE ARE fair online pharmacies who provide products made by top pharmaceutical manufacturers. And what is even better – there are ways to determine shops that can be trusted.
So to summarize things up: yes, you can buy generics online and actually save a lot on it, but it is an uncontrolled market and you have to take care of yourself.
I hope this article clears things up a bit, and will help you to make the right choice just for you.