Canadian Pharmacists Oppose Drug Importation Bill in Congress, Suggest Looking at Long-Term Reforms

The College of Pharmacists of Manitoba (CPM), the regulatory authority in the Canadian province of Manitoba that oversees safe pharmacy practice, wrote to the United States Congress requesting that they reject the current importation bill.

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“The College of Pharmacists opposes policies that authorize US consumers to import prescription drugs from Canada, as it would have the effect of placing US and Canadian patients at risk and negatively impact Canadian drug pricing controls and drug supplies. Rather, we urge policymakers in both jurisdictions to shift their focus to meaningful, long-term reforms that will deliver affordable and accessible healthcare and pharmaceutical products to all patients within their respective regulated health care systems.”

CPM warned that the bill would not provide US patients with access to lower-cost medicine:

  • Canadian law prohibits Canadian pharmacists from filling prescriptions issued by US practitioners.”
    Currently, the only Canadian physicians co-signing prescriptions for Americans at Canadian online pharmacies are doing by mass-cosigning, which is “contrary to the standards of care in both Canada and the US and puts patient safety at risk.”
  • “The Canadian medicine supply is not sufficient to support Canada and the US.”
    Canada’s considerably smaller population of only 36 million residents receives a supply of medication for that population; the U.S.’s 319 million residents, almost ten times as many, would quickly deplete the Canadian supply.
  • There is no way for Canadian or US authorities to be sure the medicines sold to US patients will be safe and effective.”
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that 85% of the medicines coming from so-called Canadian online pharmacies were actually from other countries, not Canada.  “For years, medical practices in the US and individual Americans have ordered prescription drugs from online pharmacies claiming to be from Canada and, instead, have received substandard, contaminated, and counterfeit medicines from other foreign countries that were not approved by Health Canada or FDA.”
  • Sending consumers online to look for Health Canada-approved medicines is reckless, as US patients are likely to receive unapproved, substandard, and counterfeit drugs from unknown foreign sources, posing a serious risk to patient safety.”

1. They warn that “tens of thousands of sites look legitimate” on the internet, but do not actually provide Health Canada-approved medicine to Americans.

2. There is no recourse for Americans who received incorrect or dangerous medicines from these websites that are run by shell organizations in offshore locations that claim to be Canadian.

3. A policy that encourages US patients to use a “safe Canadian online pharmacy” will only encourage these disreputable vendors who will have an endorsed market to exploit with their deceptive practices. They say that 96% of 35,000 active online drug sellers are operating illegally, and 600 new fake pharmacy websites are launched every month.

Read the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba Letter here.