Tuesday, June 29, 2004

From the Boston Globe:
City finds a cure in drug imports
Since last fall, John Sullivan has been taking a daily dose of Lipitor and three other drugs imported from Canada as part of a city-sponsored program. He has a one-word response to warnings from the Food and Drug Administration that his drugs could be unsafe.

"Hogwash," said Sullivan, 77, a retired public schools administrator and widower.

As Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston gets ready to defy US government officials and launch a Canadian drug-purchasing plan next month, Springfield's municipal government is wrapping up its first year of an importation program that helped spawn a national movement. Local officials say the program has saved the city $3 million since it began in July -- short of the $7 to $9 million original estimate but still one of the few bright spots in a city on the brink of bankruptcy.
From the Columbus (GA) Ledger-Enquirer:
Fla. May Make Canadian Drugs Easier to Get
State health officials announced Tuesday they would make it easier for storefronts that order prescription drugs from Canada to become licensed as pharmacies, a week after warning a dozen stores they would be shut down.

John O. Agwunobi, secretary of the Florida Department of Health, said the efforts are meant to protect consumers by encouraging more stores to become licensed so the state can regulate them.

"It just makes sense if these guys are in the business of helping people and they want to protect the credibility of their sector of the pharmaceutical community," Agwunobi said.

Monday, June 28, 2004

From the Palm Beach (FL) Post:
Unwanted prescription?
Calling your business a "pharmacy," a discount "drug" store, an "Rx" or an "apothecary" doesn't make it so. But doing so in Florida without a state license to practice pharmacy is now illegal.

The new state law, which Gov. Bush signed last month, strengthens health officials' efforts to shut down or force into regulation dozens of unlicensed storefronts. But Floridians who rely on some of the shops for what may otherwise be unaffordable medicine will take little comfort in this effort to protect consumers as long as Congress refuses to control drug costs.
From the Stamford (Conn.) Advocate:
Business leaders oppose drug importation bill
Business groups and biotechnology companies on Monday called for a veto of a bill allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada, claiming there's no guarantee of the drugs' safety and the practice would damage the state's economy.

The briefing followed the General Assembly's approval last week of a bill allowing Canadian pharmacies to be licensed in Rhode Island, which could make it easier for some residents to buy cheaper drugs.
From the Fort Lauderdale (FL) Sun Sentinel:
Canadian drug plan saved city $3 million
Springfield saved $3 million in the first year it bought prescription drugs from Canada for city workers and retirees, less than half of the $7 million to $9 million originally estimated, city officials said.

The savings fell short because the participants didn't fully understand the plan's benefits and because the city boosted the co-payment of its traditional plan as incentive for people to use the Canadian plan with no co-payment, said insurance manager Christopher Collins.

Friday, June 25, 2004

From the Washington Times:
Canadians spend more on drugs than doctors
Canadians' drug purchases comprised 16.2 percent of the country's total health expenditures for 2003, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Of the estimated $16 billion spent on prescribed drugs in Canada in 2003, 47.2 percent was paid for with public funds. In 1998 the public share of prescription-drug costs was 42.5 percent.

CIHI's fourth annual Drug Expenditure in Canada report released Tuesday shows total drug spending reached $19.6 billion in 2003, up 17 percent from 2001. Prescribed drugs are believed to represent 82 percent of all drug spending nationwide.
Portland, Me., lets city employees buy Canadian prescription drugs
Portland city employees will have the option of buying some prescription drugs at lower cost through a Canadian company, officials announced Thursday.

Portland joins about three dozen U.S. cities and counties that have prescriptions filled through Ontario-based CanaRx, despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration efforts to stop the practice.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

From the Canadian Press:
Two Internet pharmacists face disciplinary hearing by Manitoba regulator
Manitoba's pharmacy watchdog has accused two Internet pharmacists of misconduct for knowingly filling prescriptions for U.S. customers who were not examined by Canadian doctors.

One of the pharmacists, Adelaine Saria of Winnipeg-based CanAmerica Drugs, also allegedly violated the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association's code of ethics by paying a Manitoba doctor to countersign U.S. prescriptions.

Monday, June 21, 2004

From the Globe and Mail:
Canadian Internet drugs safer than from abroad, U.S. says
A U.S. report that says drug shipments to American consumers from Internet pharmacies in Canada are safer and more reliable than from other countries, is expected to fuel support for three bills before the U.S. Senate to legalize drug imports from Canada.

"You gotta love it," said David MacKay, executive director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association in Winnipeg.

"The argument should never have been are drugs from Canada safe. It should be how do you get Canadian drugs safely into the hands of American patients."

Sunday, June 20, 2004

From the Wausau (Wisc.) Daily Herald:
Seniors seek alternatives to Rx woes Wausau native helps pitch
Wisconsin seniors increasingly are turning to Canadian pharmacies to buy prescription drugs at discounted prices, and some innovative businessmen have created companies to make the process easier.

One of them, Wausau native Dan O'Hearn, sponsored a forum this week attended by about 100 people to tell them how the process can save them hundreds of dollars. Seniors, frustrated by the high costs of drugs and complicated federal and state plans intended to offer them discounts, find going through Canadian pharmacies to be an easier and cheaper way to obtain their medications.
From CTV.ca:
Health Canada warns of cholesterol drug risks
Health Canada has issued a warning about a potentially dangerous condition linked to Crestor, one of the "statin" drugs used to lower cholesterol.

The medication, when taken by patients with certain other health problems, can cause a condition in which muscle cells break down, leading in some cases to kidney failure and even death, says an advisory letter issued to physicians.

AstraZeneca of Mississauga, Ont., Crestor's manufacturer, said eight Canadians taking the drug have experienced the condition - called rhabdomyolysis - since February 2003. All had underlying conditions which increased their risk of developing the muscle-destroying side-effect.
From CBC.ca:
Internet pharmacies applaud U.S. report
Canada's internet pharmacies are welcoming a new American report that they say vindicates their industry.

A report by the American General Accounting Office – the equivalent of Canada's auditor general – found prescription drugs from Canadian websites pose fewer risks than medications purchased from online pharmacies in other countries.

In fact, somes Canadian internet pharmacies had stricter standards even than those in the United States, said David MacKay, director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. MacKay expects the report to soften Washington's stance.
From the Lakeland (FL) Ledger:
Canadian Drug Firms Ordered To Cease
Polk County's Canadian prescription services got a wake-up call Friday when the Florida Department of Health issued a cease-and-desist order against Discount Drugs of Canada and Discount Medicine of Canada.

Discount Drugs of Canada has locations in Lakeland and Haines City. Discount Medicine of Canada has locations in Lakeland and Winter Haven.

These companies provide clients with price quotes, fill out the necessary paperwork and handle any additional clerical work needed to send prescriptions to licensed pharmacists in Canada.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

From NBC News 4 (CA):
Canadian Drugs Ordered Online Pose Few Risks
A report by the General Accounting Office found that in some instances, Canadian pharmacies had stricter standards than those in the United States.

GAO investigators purchased drugs from Internet pharmacies in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Thailand and seven other countries. They found that the drugs obtained from Canada had fewer problems compared to medications purchased from online pharmacies in other countries.
From the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press:
2 pharmacies added to state Web site
Two more Canadian pharmacies have been added to the MinnesotaRxConnect.com Web site, bringing the number of sites to four, state Human Services Department officials announced Thursday.

Canada US Pharmacy and CanadaDrugs.com, both in Manitoba, have joined Total Care Pharmacy and Granville Pharmacy. Officials from the department and the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy visited the newly added pharmacies in mid-April.

Monday, June 14, 2004

From the Australian:
Pro-lifers back pill U-turn
RIGHT to Life Australia (RLA) has welcomed reports the morning after pill could become a prescription-only drug again.

It said pharmacists had reported alarming increases in requests for the morning-after pill, mostly from teenagers.

RLA president Margaret Tighe today said giving young women unfettered access to a powerful hormonal substance was irresponsible.

"This (making the pill available) has been the most irresponsible act on the part of those in authority," she said.

(Editor's note: Not specifically a Canadian pharmacy story, but it does give insight into what has happened in a country that has made the morning after pill an OTC item, which is being proposed in Canada.)

Sunday, June 13, 2004

From the Montreal Gazette:
Pill poppers may be better dieting
Are Canadians popping pills to suppress medical symptoms that could be helped with diet or an exercise program instead?

In too many cases the answer appears to be 'yes,' at least, according to an analysis conducted for The Gazette by IMS Health, an independent Montreal-based research firm, and subsequent interviews with a wide range of Canadian doctors.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

From WMUR-TV (NH):
Federal Candidates Support Canadian Drug Importation
Nearly all the candidates hoping to represent New Hampshire in Washington support the legal importation of Canadian drugs, but they disagree on how prescriptions should get from manufacturers to mailboxes.

Several candidates so far have stepped forward to challenge Republican Sen. Judd Gregg and Reps. Charles Bass and Jeb Bradley, who face re-election this fall.

Across party lines, most say allowing Americans to fill prescriptions in Canada makes sense, given the public's growing frustration with drug prices and open defiance of the federal ban on such imports.
From the Globe and Mail:
More are suffering gastric bleeding from pain drugs
The popularity of a new generation of painkillers has led to a sharp increase in the number of people suffering from bleeding ulcers, according to a new study.

The research, published in today's edition of the British Medical Journal, suggests that about 2,000 additional people are being hospitalized annually with gastrointestinal bleeds in Canada as a result of taking the drugs, which are sold under the brand names Celebrex, Vioxx and Mobicox.
From the Portland (OR) Tribune:
Canadian drugs still entice
The flow of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada isn’t likely to slow down.

Not if people like 73-year-old Felix Calkins of Portland are set on saving money and having easy access to northern druggists. That’s despite Oregon pharmacists warning, as they do in a new public education campaign unveiled Wednesday, not to buy the medications.

Health Canada, Canada’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is “not about to allow drugs that are counterfeit to be sold by pharmacies there,” says Calkins, who found that by buying blood pressure medication from Canada, he could save about $800 a year on his medications.
From the Indianapolis Star:
Senior group joins fight for imported drugs
United Senior Action of Indiana this morning filed a class-action lawsuit similar to one filed May 19 by another seniors group seeking to force Eli Lilly and other major drug companies to allow Americans to buy drugs from Canada.

United Senior Action's suit, also filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, earns it a place at the table as the litigation plays out, said Bill Kane, a partner in the Chicago law firm of Miller Faucher and Cafferty.
From the Toronto Star:
Drug errors affect 1 in 9 patients
Canadians put themselves at risk of infection, broken bones or drug mix-ups every time they set foot in hospitals, doctor's offices or local pharmacies, according to a report released yesterday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

"I think anytime anybody enters a hospital or they seek care, there's a potential for infection and there's a risk. Some of it is very minor, some of it is major, but there's always a potential risk," said John Ward, chair of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute.

"We will never eliminate error or adverse events completely, but we can certainly reduce the incidence," he said.
From KGW-TV (Ore.):
New campaign says foreign prescription drugs can be unsafe, ineffective
A new federal campaign seeks to warn consumers about the risks of buying prescription drugs from Canada and other foreign countries.

The campaign, "Looks Can Be Deceiving," says that pharmaceuticals purchased from outside the United States can be unsafe, ineffective or even counterfeit, with no guarantees of their strength or quality.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

From Bend.com (Ore.):
Feds, pharmacists urge halt to Canadian imports
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, addressing rising concerns about the illegal importation of prescription drugs, joined the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and the Oregon State Pharmacy Association Wednesday to launch a comprehensive consumer education campaign, warning Oregonians of the dangers of illegal drug importation.

Officials with the Coalition for Manitoba Pharmacy, a Canadian community pharmacy organization, joined their American counterparts at the announcement in Portland, to stress their shared concerns on the issue.
From the FDA:
FDA Public Health Advisory for Crestor (rosuvastatin)
Astra-Zeneca Pharmaceuticals today released a revised package insert for Crestor (rosuvastatin) for use in the 22 member states of the European Union (EU). The changes to the European labeling are in response to postmarketing spontaneous adverse event reports in patients receiving Crestor and highlight certain patient populations who may be at an increased risk for serious muscle toxicity (myopathy) associated with Crestor use, especially at the highest approved dose of 40 mg. These risk factors and many of the recommendations for how to minimize the risk of myopathy are already captured in the FDA approved labeling for Crestor in the U.S. FDA is alerting physicians to the need to carefully read the Crestor product label and follow the recommendations for starting doses, dose adjustments, and maximum daily doses to minimize the risk of myopathy in individual patients.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

From the Canadian Press:
Novartis firm Sandoz buys Quebec-based Sabex Holdings for $763 million
Swiss-based drug giant Novartis is paying $763 million Cdn to acquire a Quebec maker of generic drugs, Sabex Holdings Ltd.

Sabex, a specialist in injectable generic drugs such as morphine, has annual sales of about $120 million and 450 employees. The deal should help expand the Sabex operations and there wouldn't be any job losses or management changes, said Sandra MacTavish, a spokeswoman for Sandoz, the generic drug unit of Novartis.
From the Norwich (CT) Bulletin:
Canada trip to buy drugs is called off; Pfizer blamed
The president of the Connecticut Council of Senior Citizens asked U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons Monday to use his "substantial influence" with Pfizer Inc. to stop the company from threatening Canadian pharmacies that sell prescription drugs to Americans.

Charlene Block said that a senior bus trip to Montreal next week to purchase lower-cost prescription drugs had to be canceled because of Pfizer's recent actions against Canadian pharmacies and distributors, including the suspension of two distribution licenses.
From the Lake County (WI) Reporter:
Store offers relief to high cost of drugs
The ever-rising cost of prescription drugs has led to a state lawsuit, to state and local governments looking for alternatives, and has become a major issue in this presidential election year.

A common underlying theme in all those aspects is the lower cost of prescription drugs our neighbors to the north are paying.

Those lower-cost prescription drugs are now just a short drive or local phone call away.

Jon Oaks and Mark Lindow, owners of American Advantage Insurance in Waukesha, obtained a Canada Drug Service franchise, which opened its doors Feb. 1.

Monday, June 07, 2004

From the International Herald Tribune:
Novartis to buy Canadian drug maker
Novartis, Switzerland's largest drug company, said on Monday that it would acquire the closely held Canadian generic drug maker Sabex Holdings for $565 million in cash.

Sabex, based in Quebec, is a leading maker of injectable generic drugs and has annual sales of about $90 million. Novartis's Sandoz unit is the world's second-largest generic drug maker.
From the (Manchester, NH) Union Leader:
Drug bills vie for support
Competing plans in the U.S. Senate that would allow patients to buy prescriptions from Canada and Europe could mean that some sort of reimportation law is on the horizon, observers say.

The question on many minds is whether buying from foreign pharmacies really solves the problem of high prices in the United States.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, introduced a plan last week that would allow importation of prescriptions from Canada and Europe, under control of the Federal Drug Administration. Gregg chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, giving him some power over what a final version of the bill will look like.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

From Health Canada:
Important Drug Safety Information: Warning for SSRIs and
other newer anti-depressants regarding the potential for behavioural and emotional changes, including risk of self-harm
From the Canadian Press:
Health Canada has plan for drug shortages caused by Internet trade: documents
Health Canada is bracing for a drug shortage even as the department assures Canadians there is no evidence lucrative Internet pharmacies have created one, documents suggest.

In briefing notes prepared for federal Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew, department officials also warn of "likely implications for Canada's health-care system should there be no intervention to prevent/restrict cross-border drug sales."
From the Carolina Channel:
Upstate Couple Says They're Still Saving With Canadian Drugs
Two years ago, Bob and Carmen Arick of Spartanburg said they were saving big money by ordering their prescription drugs from Canada.

The Aricks told Tim Waller this week that things haven't changed.

"I'm saving at least 40 to 50 percent off the U.S. price," Bob Arick said.

The Aricks order from a pharmacy in Montreal, getting the same drugs pharmacies in this country sell, including drugs from Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
From the Kansas City Star:
Are risks worth the rewards?
The safety issue is being swept aside much too expediently when it comes to the push for liberalization of drug reimportation from Canada.

Even though there is growing political support for congressional approval of foreign-source access, safety concerns are being sacrificed to the clamor for cheaper prescription drugs. The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to sanction reimportation but has been reluctant to do so because for safety reasons.
From the Los Angeles Daily News:
Pill makers rushing to push risks of buying drugs abroad
As California moves closer to passing laws that would make drug imports from Canada easier, the pharmaceutical industry is attempting to debunk the benefits of buying medication abroad.

Most of the anti-importation rhetoric stems from pharmaceutical companies that feel threatened by the glut of prescription drugs coming from Canada. The drug industry says it is difficult to ensure quality when prescriptions are filled in foreign countries. But advocates of drug imports are convinced that soaring costs can be tamed by tapping Canada, where regulations virtually parallel those of the United States.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

From the Toronto Star:
Clean out medicine cabinet
The recent discovery of a tube of antibiotic cream from 1955 in the Abbotsford, B.C., home of a retired nurse prompts the question: Just what is hiding in Canada's medicine cabinets?

While most homes aren't harbouring decades-old medications, it's not uncommon for these items to take up shelf space well past their expiry dates.

And those not accustomed to taking stock of their supplies could — at the very least — be left with medicines reduced to the status of a placebo.
From Bloomberg:
Massachusetts Town Defies Bush on Drug Imports, Saves $2.8 Mln
Springfield Massachusetts saved $2.8 million in the past year by importing prescription drugs from Canada for its employees and pensioners, defying the Bush administration, the world's biggest drugmakers and local doctors.

The ``Springfield Meds'' program benefits from cost reductions of as much as 70 percent because of Canada's price controls. The savings show why U.S. cities, counties and states are pressuring Congress to make it easier to import medicines.

While the Bush administration opposes imports, citing safety concerns, regulators helped New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg craft a proposal to make the process legal. Gregg announced his bill Wednesday and said his health committee would vote on it by the end of July. Two similar bills have been proposed in the Senate, and the House has passed an import measure.
From the Washington Times:
Spat erupts over online drug advertising
Top online search engines are being accused of favoritism for allowing ads for discount Canadian prescription drugs but barring ads for pain and sex drugs.

The two biggest Internet search engines, google.com and yahoo.com say they plan to continue carrying ads for Canadian pharmacies, even though it is illegal for U.S. customers to buy drugs from them, but both have cracked down on the sale of such drugs as Viagra and Vicodin without prescriptions.
From MLive.com (Mich.):
At long last, gum is legal in Singapore
For years, Hidayat Osman got around this city-state's ban on the sale of chewing gum by picking up an occasional pack in neighboring Malaysia.

So it was a pleasant surprise when the 24-year-old saw a few perfectly legal boxes of Wrigley's Orbit chewing gum tucked on a shelf behind a pharmacist's counter here.

"After all these years, it'll be nice to get it locally," he said, as he was about to ask for a pack.

Not so fast. The clerk pointed to a sign that says the pharmacist -- the only person who can legally dispense gum -- was out to lunch. "Wow. It's like a controlled substance," Mr. Osman laughed.

(Editor's note: Not a Canadian pharmacy story, but I thought it was interesting that pharmacists dispense chewing gum in Singapore.)
From Medical News Today (UK):
Gregg prescription drugs importation bill would allow only FDA-approved products USA
New Hampshire senator's proposed legislation provides government safeguards for imported prescription drugs.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R–N.H.) unveiled a drug importation bill on June 2 that would allow pharmacies and wholesalers to legally import prescription medicines from Canada and possibly Europe. Gregg is chair of the Senate Health Committee, which recently held a hearing to discuss whether prescription drug importation could be conducted without posing great harm to American consumers, This is the third drug importation bill introduced to the Senate this year.
From the (Denver) Rocky Mountain News:
Canadian drug petition denied
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has officially denied a petition from Gov. Rod Blagojevich for a pilot program to buy prescription drugs from Canada.

Blagojevich and officials in other states have been pushing the Bush administration to change its policy prohibiting Canadian drug imports in a bid to save the state money on drug costs.
From the Boston Globe:
Senate battle looms over drug imports
A showdown is looming in the US Senate over prescription drug imports.

A Republican bill introduced this week to legalize imports takes a softer line against the US pharmaceutical industry than a competing, bipartisan bill, setting up a clash that will test the strength of importation advocates.

The expected confrontation hinges on the key difference between the tougher measure, backed by Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Republican John McCain of Arizona, among others, and the bill introduced Wednesday by New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg, chairman of the Senate committee for health care.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

From Bend.com (OR):
Smith co-authors bill to allow Canada drug imports
Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., of the Committee on Health Education, Labor, and Pensions on Wednesday introduced the Safe Importing of Medical Products and Rx Therapies (Safe IMPORT) Act to allow individuals, pharmacies, and wholesalers to safely import prescription drugs from Canada and as many as 15 Western European countries.

“Everyone agrees that we have to do something about the high cost of prescription drugs,” said Smith. “The real question is how to do it safely and without destroying incentives to produce life-saving medicine. We’ve struck a good balance here – one that will quickly make imports legal while providing the same protection we have for drugs purchased in the United States.”
From NorthFulton.com (GA):
Canadian prescription drugs get storefront
More and more the pharmaceutical industry is being challenged in the United States by foreign prescription-drug exporters who are delivering drugs to U.S. citizens for a fraction of their cost at U.S. pharmacies.

The sales for the drugs have mostly come over the Internet, but in Roswell Atlanta Rx Assistance has given the Canadian prescription drug industry a local storefront.

A report earlier this year on National Public Radio told the story about a woman whose father had cancer. The drug to fight his cancer cost $47,000 a year, more than they could afford. So she now travels out of the country to buy the same drug for $1,200 a year. The move saved the man’s life.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

From the Washington Post:
Importing a Fight With Boston's Biotech Industry
A biotechnology powerhouse. An importer of prescription drugs from Canada. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino says that his city can be both.

In July, Boston, which rivals San Francisco as the world capital of the biotechnology industry, is set to become the largest and most influential city to make it easier for public employees to buy imported pharmaceuticals. The effort is part of a nationwide movement that its architects say will make medicine more affordable for Americans, who pay among the highest drug prices in the world.
From the Milwaukee Channel:
Oak Creek Employees Get Canadian Drugs
The Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek could become the first community in Wisconsin to offer its employees the option of buying prescription drugs from Canada.

The Oak Creek Common Council meets tonight to consider linking city employees to Canadian drugs.

Alderman Al Foeckler says it could save the city more than $100,000 -- and it could reduce or eliminate copayments for medication.
From the North Adams (Mass.) Transcript:
Legalization of foreign drugs alive on two separate tracks in Washington
The estimated 6,900 Berkshire County seniors who can't afford to fill pricey prescriptions may have some relief by election day as the legalization of importing Canadian drugs moves forward on two separate tracks in Washington.

Adding momentum to the movement, 18 attorneys general, including Massachusetts top lawman Tom Reilly, have signed a letter backing re-importation, as have the heads of retail drug giants CVS pharmacy and Walgreens.
From the Canadian Press:
200 pharmacies team up in PharmaChoice-United Pharmacist partnership
More than 200 independent pharmacies are joining forces across Canada as they face competition with such giant chains as Shoppers Drug Mart and supermarket drugstores.

PharmaChoice of Halifax and United Pharmacist Enterprises Limited said Monday they have agreed to create PharmaChoice Prairies and will use the PharmaChoice banner name.