June 27, 2005

Canada to ban bulk sales of drugs to US–newspaper

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will shortly announce a ban onbulk sales of drugs to the United States as a way of reining inInternet pharmacies that sell cheap medicine to Americans, theWinnipeg Free Press said on Monday.

The paper quoted federal sources as saying Health MinisterUjjal Dosanjh would also unveil a monitoring system to trackthe volume of drugs being shipped out of Canada to ensure thatdomestic supplies do not run out.

The proposals would not stop individuals from usingInternet pharmacies, but they would block plans by some U.S.states for bulk purchases of medicines from Canada.

Canada sets limits on what pharmaceutical companies cancharge for their drugs, so drugs are cheaper in Canada than inthe United States.

That has triggered a boom in Internet pharmacies which sellmedicines to Americans, often without Canadian doctors seeingthe patients or signing their prescriptions.

Several bills to allow foreign drug imports are now beforethe U.S. Congress, but Dosanjh says Canada does not have thesupplies to meet a vast increase in demand from south of theborder.

Pharmaceutical companies have also threatened to haltshipments to Canada if the drugs are simply shipped back to theUnited States and sold at levels that undercut U.S. prices.

Dosanjh spokesman Ken Polk would not comment on theWinnipeg Free Press article.

"Any package of steps will reflect the minister's abidingconcern with protecting the Canadian supply of prescriptionmedicines, protecting the Canadian drug pricing regime, as wellas constraining the practice of co-signing prescriptions forAmericans," he said.

Officials say Dosanjh is due to make the announcement sometime this week.