Sunday, July 16, 2006

US Senate votes to end seizures of Canadian drugs

I think it's rather unlikely that this will ever pass through all the levels of the American government, but the Senate did approve a bill allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada. It might simply be a move by some politicians to win points with the electorate in the American mid-term elections. Regardless, I don't think prescription drugs will be the hot button topic it was in the 2004 campaign.

From the Washington Post:
U.S. customs and border security agents would be banned from seizing prescription drugs that Americans import from Canada under a measure passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate voted 68-32 in favor of the provision, with supporters saying the federal government should stay out of the way of Americans seeking cheaper medicines in Canada for personal use. Many Americans import prescription drugs from abroad even though the practice is illegal. ...more

It looks like the Canadian government is greeting the news with a yawn. There are some Liberals that are talking about it, but their focus seems to be more about trying to pin a conflict of interest charge on the health minister as opposed to the issue itself. Cross border pharmacy has largely dropped off the radar for the Canadian public. Remember the days when it was a staple of the nightly news and in the newspaper regularly? That seems like a long time ago.

From the Globe and Mail:
The federal government is unconcerned about a move by the U.S. Senate to end a ban on the import of cheap Canadian pharmaceuticals, but a former Liberal health minister says the proposal threatens the drug supply in this country.

And another Liberal suggests the reluctance of Health Minister Tony Clement to act on the file may be linked to the fact that his former communications aide is now head of the organization that represents on-line pharmacists who sell much of their product to Americans. ...more

Canadians may soon be able to drink their nicotine

Watch out Nicorete and Nicoderm -- here comes a new nicotine replacement in a bottle of water. I can't figure this one out. The nicotine drink will not be treated as a natural product? Didn't the government stop sales of that pharmacist-invented nicotine stick a couple of years ago claiming it was a drug? Also, I was under the impression that the caffeine-laced water sold in the States was not allowed in Canada.

...NIC Lite water contains about two cigarettes worth of nicotine and is being sold as a dietary supplement in the U.S. even though the Food and Drug Administration recently said it's an unapproved drug and its claim to be a supplement violates the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. ...more

Important Safety Information: Intracranial Hemorrhage in Patients Receiving Aptivus® (tipranavir) Capsules

From Health Canada:
...As of June 7, 2006, Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) has received 14 reports of intracranial hemorrhage (ICH), including 8 fatalities, in 6840 HIV-1 infected patients receiving APTIVUS in clinical trials...

for the Public
for Health Professionals

Canadian sale hits record low

With the dollar being what as high as it is and the new Medicare plan, I guess this is no surprise.

From the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune:
Sales of low-price prescription drugs from Canada, purchased through a state-sponsored program, plunged to their lowest level last month, Minnesota officials reported Wednesday.

The program of phone and Internet links to Canadian pharmacies was started two years ago by Gov. Tim Pawlenty as the first in the nation. Sales fell to $30,417 last month -- down about 30 percent from May and a shadow of the $153,000 during its best month in January 2005. ...more

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Drug firms' research spending falls short

Here's an article that's a bit old, but it's interesting. I didn't realize that there are specific amounts that the brand name drug companies are supposed to spend on research in Canada. They seem to be having trouble reaching it over the last five years.

If the drug companies met this pledge, they would have a good statement to make in negotiations with governments when it comes to changes to formularies and patent laws (like the recent Ontario drug bill). They could say that they have held up their end of the negotiated bargain. Instead, I think they've left themselves open to criticism that is hard to deflect.

At least the stats are improving, up from 8.5% in 2004 to 8.8% last year.

From the Ottawa Citizen:
While seeing rising sales, Canada's big drug companies again failed to hit their promised target for spending on research and development of new medicines last year.

Brand-name drugmakers spent $1.2 billion or 8.7 per cent of their sales on research and development, marking the fifth consecutive year that the industry has failed to meet the 10-per-cent-of-sales ratio pledged when patent rules were strengthened in 1987. ...more

Native woman appeals demands to change drugs

From CBC News:
An aboriginal woman living in Winnipeg is appealing a demand that she switch medications for a health problem, saying the federal government's efforts to cut drug costs for First Nations people have gone too far.

Doreen Demas, 50, is blind and has diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. She takes medications that require an extra drug, a proton pump inhibitor, to protect her stomach. ...more

Monday, July 03, 2006

Pinning hopes on `wonder drug'

Here's another story regarding a really expensive new drug which treats a relatively uncommon but serious ailment. These stories are in the papers more and more these days. The issue here isn't so much about government approval as opposed to coverage of the drug. It's hard to draw the line of what is covered and what isn't, and sometimes it isn't fair. But isn't that essentially what the Canadian health care system is about? We have one dominant payer in the government which holds all the cards in these cases. The government decides what type of surgery, diagnostic test, or drug is covered and we essentially have to live with it. Or else we need to change the system.

From the Toronto Star:
...The Toronto resident is pinning all her hopes on a wonder drug called Avastin, which was approved by Health Canada in September 2005 for patients with metastatic colon cancer. The problem is the Ontario Drug Benefit program, which pays for drugs for seniors, those on disability and the poor, doesn't cover the steep cost of the medication, which is close to $40,000 for a round of treatment. For cancer patients who want to get the drug when they're in hospital, Ontario doesn't provide or cover it.

This month she began yet another round of chemotherapy as well as Avastin, which is delivered intravenously at a private health clinic in Toronto. Family and friends are raising money to pay the hefty bill. ...more