More Canadian Pharmacies Seek Non-U.S. Pharmaceutical Supplies
Two newspapers recently examined the increased number of Canadian pharmacies that have begun to seek supplies from outside the United States because U.S. pharmaceutical companies have limited supplies to the pharmacies to help prevent reimportation of their products to U.S. residents.
Philadelphia Inquirer: According to the Inquirer, some Canadian pharmacies have engaged in the practice for some time and do not inform consumers "where the drugs were coming from." However, some more reputable Canadian pharmacies also have begun to seek supplies from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Israel and the United Kingdom, according to Gabriel Levitt of PharmacyChecker.com, a Web site that monitors some Canadian pharmacies. Levitt said, "The drug companies are likely to see this as fodder for saying you can't trust pharmacies in Canada, but it's worth noting that Canada is going to foreign supplies because manufacturers are cutting off their own supplies." He said, "This may be the beginning of a losing battle" for U.S. pharmaceutical companies, adding, "They can cut supplies from one country, but can they keep going from country to country, cutting off the supplies in each place?" Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spokesperson Jeff Trewhitt said, "The U.S. pharmacy system should remain closed to stop counterfeit and substandard products, which account for 15% of global pharmaceutical sales." He added that FDA "has a number of concrete examples" in which prescription drugs are sent from unlicensed sources in developing nations through Canadian pharmacies to U.S. residents who are unaware of the origins of the medications (Dorschner, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/26).
- Wall Street Journal: According to the Journal, U.S. drug makers such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline recently have cut back on shipments of prescription drugs to Canadian pharmacies in an effort to discourage reimportation. Such "aggressive efforts" against Canadian pharmacies have "clearly had an effect on both prices and supplies," and some pharmacies "that once dabbled in mail order decided it wasn't worth the trouble," according to the Journal. However, other Canadian pharmacies have begun importing supplies from pharmacies in New Zealand and Australia -- where drugs can cost 20% to 30% less than in Canada -- and from Israel and Chile, where drugs can be 10% to 20% less expensive, the Journal reports. It remains "unclear whether Americans will embrace prescription drugs from nations other than Canada," and some health care advocates are concerned that drugs imported from other countries will not meet U.S. federal safety standards, according to the Journal (Spors, Wall Street Journal, 7/22).