Pfizer Limits Supplies to Canadian Pharmacies To Help Prevent Prescription Drug Reimportation
In an effort to "choke off" shipments to Canadian Internet pharmacies that sell lower-cost, U.S.-manufactured prescription drugs to U.S. consumers, New York-based Pfizer on Monday sent a letter to Canadian drug retailers outlining a new policy that they must follow to receive drug shipments from the company, the Wall Street Journal reports. The letter states that Canadian drug retailers must get Pfizer's authorization to do business with the drug company's authorized wholesalers; authorization will be given only if the drug retailers promise not to ship drugs to U.S. consumers. "Your continuing approved status is conditional upon your continued compliance with Pfizer's terms of trade, as modified from time to time," the letter reads (Carlisle, Wall Street Journal, 1/14). In addition, the letter states that Canadian wholesale distributors will immediately be required to report past and current orders of Pfizer medicines from individual drug stores, the New York Times reports. Don Sancton, a spokesperson for Pfizer Canada, said that some distributors had already been supplying information on drug orders from individual drug stores, adding, "We're making this a requirement for everyone." The letter states that the Pfizer policy forbids pharmacies to export its products, adding, "This includes not selling, transferring or distributing products to any person that you know, or have reasonable grounds for believing, will or may export Pfizer products out of Canada. Any breach of the terms of this letter will result in Pfizer refusing all further sales to you" (Simon, New York Times, 1/14). In a statement, Pfizer said that it is "taking further steps in Canada" to protect the safety of patients and to guarantee "an adequate and ongoing supply of Pfizer products." The statement also said that Internet pharmacies that ship to U.S. consumers are a "channel for illegal activity such as drug-counterfeiting," the Journal reports. David MacKay, executive director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, said that Pfizer's new policies are "extreme" actions meant to put Canadian mail-order pharmacies out of business.
In related news, the Ottawa-based Canadian Medical Protective Association, a self-insurance group that provides legal assistance to Canadian doctors facing malpractice lawsuits, announced that it will not help doctors facing lawsuits over prescriptions countersigned for U.S. patients. Canadian law requires that prescriptions written by U.S. doctors must be countersigned by doctors licensed to practice in Canada if the shipments of prescription drugs are to be filled in Canada and sent to the United States. Such reimportation is illegal under U.S. law. Dr. John Gray, executive director of the CMPA, said that the move was taken in part because the Internet pharmacy business is increasing Canadian doctors' exposure to U.S. litigation. Gray added that CMPA's concerns over U.S. litigation could be eliminated if Canadian regulators removed the countersigning requirement. According to the Journal, MacKay said that he "isn't too concerned" that Canadian doctors will stop countersigning U.S. prescriptions because no Canadian doctors have been sued over the practice. However, the announcement by CMPA, which represents about 95% of Canadian doctors, could "create further difficulties for Canada's Internet pharmacies," the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 1/14).
Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown on Tuesday said that the state should reimport drugs from Canada for state employees and retirees, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. Brown said that such a program could save "million of dollars" for the state, which faces an estimated $37 million deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30. In addition, Brown said that he will establish a Web site to help state residents reimport drugs from Canada. "Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world. This program will help Rhode Islanders get access to quality, affordable prescription drugs," Brown said in a statement. Ray Sullivan, a spokesperson for Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty (D), said of Brown's reimportation idea, "Any effort to help people pay for the prescription drugs they need at prices they can afford is worthy of strong consideration" (Zuckerman, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/13).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.