(National-NBC) Jan. 7, 2005 - More than two million Americans buy drugs from Canada either in bus caravans across the border or over the Internet.
But, those sales could come to a halt in the next few weeks if Canada's health minister follows through on plans to prohibit Canadian doctors from co-signing prescriptions for American patients they have not personally examined.
A top official with the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, however, believes it's pressure from the Bush Administration and US drug manufacturers that triggered the turnaround. David McKay says, "You can bet that this is not the unilateral will of the Canadian government. This is the will of George Bush protecting the pharmaceutical industry, forcing the Canadian government to capitulate to eliminate this industry and do the dirty work for him."
A shortage of low cost Canadian drugs could also change the drug re-importation debate in the US.
A Department of Health and Human Services task force report released last month valued 2003 drug shipments from Canada at about $700 million based on some five million shipments of about 12 million prescription drug products.
The Bush Administration has opposed re-importation, saying it can't guarantee drug safety, but there is strong bipartisan support both in the House and Senate. A Senate bill authorized by Republican Olympia Snowe and Democrat Byron Dorgan for example has 31 co-sponsors.
The most powerful senior citizens lobby, the AARP, believes a Canadian crackdown could generate even more support for that bill. Mike Naylor of the AARP says, "One of the provisions of that bill is that it would be an anti-trust violation for American pharmaceutical manufacturers to cut short the export of supplies to Canada."
posted 11:29am by Chris Rees