Allowing imported drugs from Canada, as the Montgomery County Council is considering, is a potentially dangerous decision based on politics and economics rather than on established pharmaceutical best practices [letters, Aug. 7].

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has built the world's safest drug system, has twice been authorized to approve importation if its experts can guarantee the safety of the imported medicines. Under both the Clinton and Bush administrations, the FDA has been unable to provide such safety guarantees. How can one Maryland county do what the FDA cannot?

Council member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) has said that he believes in the safety of importation because the Canadian vendors have ad- dressed his concerns. But he was provided a letter from the FDA to the Wisconsin governor that outlined a series of violations of pharmacy standards that Wisconsin's foreign Internet pharmacy has committed. This is the same company that assured Mr. Leventhal of its safety record.

In addition to the safety concerns, the Canadian Internet pharmacies often ship American patients generic substitutions of the medicines they have ordered. When the cost of shipping and handling is added, these medications could have been bought at a local pharmacy for less.

Encouraging patients to bypass local pharmacists and the established safety protocols developed by state pharmacy boards and the FDA threatens patients and the safety of our national drug supply with mislabeled, mishandled, sub-potent or counterfeit drugs.

For council members Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring) and Howard Denis (R-Potomac-Bethesda) to say the safety issue is bogus is wrong and irresponsible. The council should listen to the experts who seek to protect patients from unsafe importation and reject the proposed importation plan.

CYNTHIA J. BOYLE

President

Maryland Pharmacists Association

Baltimore