North Carolina Cherokee Leaders Consider Establishing Mail-Order Pharmacy, Distributing Medications From Canada
Cherokee tribal leaders in North Carolina have begun preliminary discussions on plans to operate a mail-order pharmacy that might sell lower-cost medications reimported from Canada to tribal members and others, McClatchy/Contra Costa Times reports. Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said that tribal members have visited mail-order pharmacies administered by other tribes. One of the mail-order pharmacies, a facility operated by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe in Connecticut, raises more than $15 million in revenue annually, according to Hicks. Some mail-order pharmacies operated by tribes sell only prescription drugs purchased from U.S. wholesalers, but others have attempted to sell medications reimported from Canada as well. According to McClatchy/Times, a decision by the Cherokee tribe to sell prescription drugs reimported from Canada would "set up an age-old conflict between a tribe that argues it has the rights of a sovereign nation that exempt it from federal laws and federal health officials who say selling Canadian drugs in the U.S. is illegal and, perhaps, unsafe." However, the Cherokee tribe likely would receive support from lawmakers who seek to allow prescription drug reimportation from Canada and other nations. Hicks said that prescription drug reimportation "definitely could go under sovereignty." He added, "We've visited with other tribes to see what they do and to see if it makes sense for us. It's not just for external sales. We want to see whether volume purchases would lead to better prices for our tribal members."
Jay Campbell, executive director of the occupational licensing board, said that the Cherokee tribe would have to obtain a permit from the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy to sell prescription drugs to individuals who are not tribal members. In addition, Campbell said that federal law prohibits the sale of prescription drugs reimported from Canada and that federal and state law requires patients to have a "legitimate" relationship with physicians who issue their prescriptions (Nesbitt, McClatchy/Contra Costa Times, 2/23).