Eli Lilly Requires Canadian Online Pharmacies To Report Orders in Effort To Combat Reimportation
Officials for Eli Lilly on March 22 informed a number of Canadian online pharmacies that they must have the company approve purchase orders for Lilly products before they submit them to Canadian prescription drug wholesalers as part of an effort to block the sale of the medications to U.S. residents, the AP/Newport News Daily Press reports. A letter sent to the pharmacies, as well as wholesalers authorized by Lilly, said, "Effective immediately, information regarding the volume of each of your purchase orders to all distributors of Eli Lilly Canada products is to be faxed" to a Canadian customer response center operated by the company. Officials at the center will review the orders within two business days, after which time Lilly will "respond in writing the result of its review of the order," the letter said. The letter also said that Lilly will only "review the quantities you are ordering to help ensure that supply of our products is linked to Canadian patient demand" (Jewell, AP/Newport News Daily Press, 3/31). According to Lilly spokesperson Ed Sagebiel, pharmacies that submit orders considered improperly large "will not receive their order, or we'll supply them with an amount we think is based on local need." Sagebiel said that Lilly implemented the new policy to block the sale of company products to U.S. residents to prevent prescription drug shortages in Canada, as well as the export of counterfeit medications. He added, "The response (from wholesalers) has been positive" (Indianapolis Star, 4/1). However, Jeff Uhl of Winnipeg-based Universaldrugstore.com said that "it's ridiculous" for Lilly to call the new policy a safety measure, adding that the company is "coming up with an artificial shortage to scare the Canadian public." He said, "They're pulling out all the stops to try to avoid letting drugs get south of the border" (AP/Newport News Daily Press, 3/31).
In related news, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) has begun to draft a bill that would allow the reimportation of lower-cost, U.S.-manufactured prescription drugs from Canada, The Hill reports. Gregg said that the legislation, which he plans to introduce later this month, would at first allow reimportation only from Canada but later would allow European Union nations to apply for FDA approval to participate. The bill, which remains in the "working stages," likely will include several principles for reimportation that the senator recently has outlined, Gregg spokesperson Erin Rath said. According to the principles:
- U.S. residents should have the ability to purchase medications from Canadian pharmacies for personal use;
- U.S. pharmacies should have the ability to purchase FDA-approved medications from Canada and other nations; and
- FDA should have the authority to oversee reimportation and should work to reduce the number of counterfeit medications in the U.S. prescription drug supply.