© Copyright 2006 Rogers Publishing Ltd. The following article first appeared in the May 2005 edition of BENEFITS CANADA magazine.
Medical and pharmacy organizations take action on the cross-border prescription drug trade.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), along with other medical and pharmacy organizations, met with federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh recently to provide him with feedback and recommendations on the need to revamp the current cross-border prescription drug trade. Physicians and pharmacists have indicated that they disagree with the current cross-border drug selling practice, and are committed to working with Dosanjh on developing solutions to enforce ethical and professional standards.

Albert Schumacher, a physician and president of the CMA in Ottawa, said doctors and pharmacists are working together “to maintain the safety and security of our drug supply.” He said there have already been instances of drug shortages in Canada and cited the recent lack of anti-malarial drugs in Canada, which led to citizens travelling to the Dominican Republic on short supply and having to ration their pills.

“If that starts to happen with important long-term drugs…it will affect care,” said Schumacher. “Most of those drugs that those Internet pharmacies are shooting across the border are the long-term, important cardiac and other drugs that people rely on. We’re not talking Viagra here.”

Schumacher worries that if the cross-border prescription drug trade continues at the current pace, drug shortages will eventually lead to an increase in Canadian drug prices. And that could mean plan sponsors’ drug costs could rise. “It’s cheaper here than in the States; you will see our prices move up towards American prices.”

He insists the federal government needs to take action now, not only Health Canada, but also the minister of trade. Dosanjh praised the integration of medical and pharmacy groups to work on solving this problem. “It is encouraging to see that the national advocacy and regulatory bodies of the medical and pharmacy professions have come together on this issue,” said Dosanjh. “I am working hard with my Cabinet colleagues to take steps to protect the Canadian drug pricing regime and supply.”

Chandra Price

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