Canadian Pharmacies Might File Anti-Competitive Lawsuit Against U.S. Prescription Drug Companies
The Canadian International Pharmacy Association, which represents 35 Canadian Internet and retail pharmacies, is considering filing an anti-competitive lawsuit against drug companies that are restricting shipments of their treatments to Canada, the Newark Star-Ledger reports (Silverman, Newark Star-Ledger, 8/8). Earlier this week, New York-based Pfizer, the world's largest drug company, sent letters to 46 Canadian pharmacies telling them that they must now purchase their medicines directly from the company instead of from wholesalers. The letters were sent to the pharmacies because Pfizer had been monitoring the export of drugs from Canada and found that the pharmacies were conducting a substantial amount of sales to people in the United States. The move allows Pfizer to impose standard contract terms that ban its customers from exporting drugs and could lead to the company cutting off drugs to pharmacies that do not adhere to the contracts. Pfizer's move follows similar actions by GlaxoSmithKline in January, AstraZeneca in April and Wyeth in June. GSK said that it would not sell drugs to Canadian pharmacies that sold drugs to U.S. residents, while AstraZeneca and Wyeth both said that they would investigate uncommonly large orders from Canadian customers to ensure that shipments were not being exported (California Healthline, 8/7).
While a final decision has not been made on whether to file the lawsuit, officials for CIPA are concerned that drug companies are engaging in an industry-wide campaign that is unfair and intended to hurt their businesses, the Star-Ledger reports. Andy Troszok, CIPA's vice president of standards, said, "We're looking at a lawsuit. We want to know if there's any direct evidence that this is an organized effort." Jacques Lefebvre, a spokesperson for Rx&D, a trade association representing research-based Canadian drug companies, said that the organization opposes cross-border Internet sales of prescription drugs because such sales do not have adequate safeguards for consumers. He added, "But we have to be very careful, as an industry, in taking a position that would affect the commercial interests of others. The actions taken by individual companies are individual positions. It's not an industry position." However, John Rother, policy director for AARP, which supports allowing U.S.-made drugs to be reimported from Canada, said, "Further restrictions [from drug companies] will simply invite the next step from Congress. And that would be to limit or prohibit that kind of activity, which discriminates against those pharmacies" (Newark Star-Ledger, 8/8).
NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday reported on drug companies' restricted shipments to Canada. The segment included comments from Rother and Hometown Meds President Paul Clark (Knox, "All Things Considered," NPR, 8/7). The segment is available online in RealPlayer. Also, MPR's "Marketplace" yesterday examined the safety of online pharmacies from which Americans purchase discounted prescriptions. Included were comments by American Pharmacists Association Vice President Susan Winkler and Associate FDA Commissioner Bill Hubbard (Cook, "Marketplace," MPR, 8/7). The segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.