U.S. Government, Pharmaceutical Industry Move To Block Prescription Drug Reimportation
The federal government and the pharmaceutical industry are "crack[ing] down" on attempts by people and organizations to purchase lower-cost prescription drugs from other nations, Long Island Newsday reports. While it is illegal to reimport drugs, federal officials have not "vigorously enforced the law until recently," according to Newsday. The U.S. Customs Service and Border Protection is "continuing to confiscate" drugs shipped to the United States, while FDA is "clamping down" on companies that help U.S. residents reimport drugs, making the practice "increasingly challenging" for U.S. residents, Newsday reports. However, the "biggest hurdle" for U.S. residents trying to reimport drugs is the pharmaceutical industry, with Pfizer being "the most aggressive" in its efforts to counter the practice, according to Newsday (Barfield Berry, Long Island Newsday, 7/6). In January, Pfizer sent a letter to Canadian pharmacies that outlined a new company policy, under which the pharmacies must obtain authorization from Pfizer to conduct business with prescription drug wholesalers approved by the company; Pfizer will only provide authorization to pharmacies that promise not to sell company products to U.S. residents. The letter stated, "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" (California Healthline, 1/14).
Drug companies are "doing what they can to put the squeeze play on," Lee Graczyk, legislative director of the Minnesota Senior Federation, which sponsors bus trips to Canada for U.S. residents to buy prescription drugs, said. Graczyk added that some Canadian pharmacists have had shortages of Pfizer products and that it is "sort of a roll of the dice in terms of whether [those products] will be available or not." Charlene Block, president of the Connecticut Council of Senior Citizens, an affiliate of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said that a recent bus trip to Canada to purchase drugs was canceled because Canadian pharmacists were "frightened off" by Pfizer's action. Dave MacKay, executive director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, said that Pfizer has "been very aggressive in going after pharmacies that they suspect may be selling to us," adding that some suppliers will not sell them Pfizer products for fear of being "blacklisted." Block said that even if Congress passes legislation to allow reimportation, access to cheaper prescription drugs will not increase if "Pfizer and other drug companies refuse to let pharmacies or distributors ... sell to the United States." Pfizer spokesperson Jack Cox said that the company has not acted against foreign pharmacies that sell the company's drugs to walk-in customers, adding that the "large-scale export of our products" has stimulated action. Cox said that the goal of the contract enforcement is to "shore up the integrity of the supply system in Canada" because of FDA and drug industry concerns about the safety of reimported drugs (Long Island Newsday, 7/6).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.