Pfizer Official Advocates Reimportation of Lower-Cost Prescription Drugs From Abroad
Peter Rost, vice president of marketing for endocrine care at Pfizer, on Friday advocated the reimportation of lower-cost prescription drugs from abroad, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Rost, who spoke as a private citizen and not as a Pfizer official, said that higher-income nations in Europe often reimport prescription drugs from nations such as Italy, Greece and Spain, which have lower prices.
He said, "During my time responsible for a region in northern Europe, I never, not once, heard the drug industry, regulatory agencies, the government or anyone express any concern related to safety. And I think it is outright derogatory to claim that Americans would not be able to handle reimportation of drugs when the rest of the world can do this." Rost added, "We have to speak out for the people who can't afford drugs, in favor of free trade and against a closed market."
Rost said that he decided to make the comments after he posted a review on Amazon.com last month about the book "The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It," written by former New England Journal of Medicine editor in chief Marcia Angell. Responses that he received about the review "pushed him to become more involved in the problems and controversies swirling around the drug industry," the AP/Inquirer reports.
According to the AP/Inquirer, Rost "has a history of being a thorn in the industry's side." In 2001, he filed a lawsuit against his former employer Wyeth over allegations that the company had defrauded foreign governments of tax payments for executive bonuses and demoted him after he informed his superiors about the practice.
Bryant Haskins, a Pfizer spokesperson, did not comment on whether the company would take action against Rost for his comments on Friday. Haskins said, "We have a clear and consistent policy on importation. We believe it puts the health of patients at additional risk" (Agovino, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/12).
The Hartford Courant on Sunday examined the effect that reimportation has had on the Canadian prescription drug supply. The "spectacular rise of Internet pharmacies that specialize in filling orders from Americans and a decision by large U.S. drug manufacturers to limit shipments to Canada to preserve their profits" have led to prescription drug supply shortages in Canada, according to the Courant.
This year, about 130 Canadian online pharmacies currently export an estimated $1 billion in prescription drugs. Several U.S. lawmakers have proposed legislation to legalize prescription drug reimportation from Canada, but some analysts maintain that the Canadian supply is "not large enough to solve the problem of high U.S. drug prices," the Courant reports (MacDonald, Hartford Courant, 9/12).