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Pharmacy groups seek protection of drug supply


OTTAWA—Four pharmacy groups are urging Canada's minister of health to prevent the bulk export of prescription drugs in response to a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Congress to allow prescription drugs to be re-imported from Canada.

The Canadian Pharmacists Assn., the Ontario Pharmacists Assn., the Canadian Assn. for Pharmacy Distribution Management and the Best Medicines Coalition sent a letter to Minister of Health Tony Clement asking him to respond proactively to the U.S. legislation introduced last week.

"It is our firm belief that the government of Canada can no longer stay silent on cross-border prescription drug exportation, particularly after these new developments in the U.S. Congress," the letter said.

U.S. Senate and House members introduced the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2007 on Jan. 10. The legislation would allow individuals to order medications from outside the United States when using a Canadian pharmacy that is registered and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA would examine, register and inspect these facilities on a regular basis.

The bill also would allow U.S.-licensed pharmacists and wholesalers to import FDA-approved medications from a number of industrialized nations.

Under the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, it is illegal for anyone other than the original manufacturer to re-import prescription drugs into the United States. But several state and local governments have defied the law by creating programs or Web sites to facilitate re-importing drugs from Canada and other countries.

A bill being considered by the Canadian federal government would amend Canada's Food and Drugs Act to give the minister of health the power to ban prescription drug bulk exports from Canada. Bill C-378, proposed in the House of Commons of Canada on Oct. 31, also would establish penalties for individuals who violate the ban and amend food and drug regulations to specify that prescription drugs can be exported only under certain conditions and by certain parties, such as the manufacturer of the drug.