Canadian Pharmacies To Supply States, Cities With Reimported Prescription Drugs
Six large Canadian pharmacies, called the Super Six Canadian Pharmacies, have announced plans to partner to supply prescription drugs to U.S. state and city governments, the Detroit Free Press reports. The Super Six, which have a combined one million U.S. customers, have launched a new Web site and maintain that their combined resources will ensure that state and city governments have access to prescription drugs from Canada (Pugh, Detroit Free Press, 10/31). Several state and city governments have recently announced plans to study programs in which they would reimport lower-cost U.S.-manufactured prescription drugs from Canada to help reduce their health care costs (California Healthline, 10/30). In response, pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Wyeth and Pfizer have limited their supplies to Canadian pharmacies to prevent reimportation of their products to the United States (California Healthline, 10/20). The Super Six said that they will obtain prescription drugs from other nations in the event that pharmaceutical companies further limit their supplies. Officials for the FDA, which opposes reimportation over safety concerns, said that they will contact Canadian officials to determine whether the Big Six Web site violates Canadian law (Detroit Free Press, 10/31).
In related news, Drugstore.com has asked Web portals America Online, Google, MSN and Yahoo! to accept advertisements only from pharmacies certified by state regulators, the Wall Street Journal reports. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacies estimates that about 400 U.S.-based online pharmacies are in operation today and that about 200 of them offer legitimate U.S. prescription drugs, 75 offer legitimate Canadian medications and the remainder have undetermined business practices. Only 15 online pharmacies, which include Drugstore.com, are certified by state regulators, the Journal reports. All pharmacies must have a license from the state in which they operate, but they are not required by law to have certification. Certification requires pharmacies to submit to regular inspections and obtain legitimate prescriptions from customers and mandates that they cannot sell prescription drugs from other nations to U.S. residents. Drugstore.com CEO Peter Neupert said that the company made the request to the Web portals because uncertified pharmacies could pose a "major public health concern." FDA Associate Commissioner for External Relations Peter Pitts also said that the agency "will be reaching out" to the Web portals to determine "how we can work together to stem the tide of these dangerous Internet drug dealers." The National Association of Boards of Pharmacies also has sent a letter to Google -- and plans to contact other Web portals -- to offer guidelines to determine whether pharmacies are legitimate. AOL spokesperson Andrew Weinstein said that the company is "right in line" with Drugstore.com and will not accept ads from uncertified pharmacies. Officials from Yahoo! and MSN also said that they have begun efforts to address the issue. However, Google President of Products Larry Page called the request from Drugstore.com "highly commercially motivated" (Wilde Mathews/Wingfield, Wall Street Journal, 10/31).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.