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American Health Line - National Journal


Feb 18, 2004

FDA and the California Pharmacists Association on Tuesday launched an information campaign in California to convince residents not to reimport lower-cost, U.S.-manufactured prescription drugs from Canada, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. State Assembly member Dario Frommer (D), state Senate President Pro Tempore John Burton (D), the Los Angeles City Council and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors each have introduced reimportation proposals. As part of the campaign, CPhA purchased one million information packets that cite the potential safety risks of reimportation and will send them to about 1,000 pharmacies statewide for distribution to customers. "When you buy drugs online, you're really putting yourself in a buyer-beware situation," FDA Associate Commissioner Peter Pitts said, adding, "We can't allow the Internet to become the 21st century drug cartel." Carlo Michelotti, CEO of CPhA, did not provide details on the cost of the campaign but said that the group has a "public health responsibility" to address the reimportation issue. However, Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said that reimportation could cause pharmacists to lose business, and as a result, state residents "need to know that the pharmacies have a financial interest in the outcome of this debate." David MacKay, executive director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, called the information campaign the "same rhetoric -- new state." FDA helped sponsor a similar campaign against reimportation in Illinois (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/18).


Sales of prescription drugs reimported from Canada to the United States increased to $1.1 billion in 2003, compared with $500 million a year earlier, according to a study released Tuesday by IMS Health, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. However, the large increase in sales represented "only a fraction" of total U.S. prescription drug expenditures, which reached $216.4 billion in 2003, the study found, the Inquirer reports. Doug Long, a vice president for IMS Health, said that despite the results of the study, the trend toward reimportation "appears to be leveling off." He added, "We saw a big growth in 2002 and 2003. Now it's slowing down a bit. The people who were going to get drugs from Canada are already there, and fewer people are going there." According to Long, U.S. residents have become "more cautious" about reimportation because many online Canadian pharmacies "have been shut down" and because FDA "is enforcing the law" against the practice. In addition, pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Wyeth and AstraZeneca have limited prescription drug shipments to Canadian pharmacies that sell the medications to U.S. residents. The study did not determine the number of U.S. residents who reimport prescription drugs from Canada (Loyd, PhiladelphiaInquirer, 2/18).