Some Industry Officials Allege Bush Is Behind Proposed Canadian Limits on Reimportation
Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh in the next few months plans to ask for regulatory limits on mail-order pharmacies in the country, Dosanjh spokesperson Ken Polk said on Thursday, an announcement that prompted some industry officials to allege that President Bush is "behind the move," the Washington Post reports (Struck, Washington Post, 1/7). Dosanjh in December said he might mandate that Canadian physicians cannot co-sign prescriptions for U.S. residents who they have not examined. Canadian law requires that Canadian physicians sign prescriptions filled in the nation. Dosanjh in a December Canadian television interview said, "I want to make sure that we don't have ... 250 million Americans buying drugs in Canada. We cannot be the drugstore for the United States."
Polk also has said that Canadian officials establish a list of prescriptions on which the Canadian government can restrict sales in the event of a shortage. Dave MacKay, executive director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association -- a group of Canadian mail-order pharmacies -- has alleged that Canadian officials during negotiations with U.S. trade officials last November negotiated concessions for products such as beef and lumber in exchange for increased opposition to reimportation. According to MacKay, a "high-level government source" informed him that Bush "made somewhat of an ultimatum."
Some industry officials also have said that Bush sought legislation from Canadian officials to limit reimportation to end U.S. debate about the legalization of the practice, which Bush opposes and many U.S. residents support. Polk earlier this week said that U.S. trade officials told Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin that it "might be difficult" for Bush to veto a bill that would legalize reimportation if Congress passed such legislation. Dosanjh has confirmed that Bush and Martin discussed reimportation during the trade negotiations (American Health Line, 1/5).
White House spokesperson Trent Duffy also confirmed that Bush and Martin discussed reimportation on Nov. 30 in Canada, but he said that the president "did not make any suggestions on what Canada should do" about mail-order pharmacies. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan called the allegations made by MacKay "nonsense."
Polk also said that "no such pressure was put on whatsoever." He said of the proposed regulatory limits on mail-order pharmacies, "The intention is to create a regulatory framework in which Canadians can be assured the business is being done ethically and that they need not worry that the (U.S.) demand for drugs threatens the Canadian drug supply or price."
MacKay said that Canadian officials "turned on a dime" on reimportation after the November trade negotiations. He added that Bush "is getting Canada to do the dirty work." Canadian International Pharmacy President Andy Troszok said that the Canadian Health Department supported the mail-order pharmacy industry before the November trade negotiations. He added that proposed regulatory limits on mail-order pharmacies likely would "shut us down" (Washington Post 1/7).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.