Thursday, September 28, 2006

Drug imports from Canada set to be eased

I am rather behind on news, but I thought this was worth mentioning even though it's a few days old. Is it political posturing prior to an election or potential for actual imporation? We'll see, but as long as the exchange rate is at its current level there will probably not be a big push for Canadian drugs regardless.

From the Fort Worth Star Telegram:
House and Senate Republicans reached an agreement that would allow Americans to bring a 90-day supply of prescription medications back across the border from Canada.

Shopping for drugs in Canada has become popular with U.S. consumers. The cost of many popular brand-name prescription drugs can be 30 percent to 80 percent lower in Canada than in the U.S. because of government price controls, surveys by The Associated Press and others have shown. ...more

McGill researchers say reanalysis confirms antacids raise risk of C. difficile

If I was a researcher, I'd really like to set up a study to determine the difference in effectiveness between H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors. This article is an arguement to avoid the PPI's when possible.

From CBC News:
Widely prescribed antacid drugs appear to be linked to a higher rate of C. difficile cases in people who have acquired the nasty bacterium outside of hospitals, a team of Montreal researchers reported Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Using data collected on the patients of family doctors in Britain, the researchers showed that non-hospitalized people who took drugs known as proton pump inhibitors were three and a half times more likely to develop Clostridium difficile than people who didn't take the popular drugs. ...more

Report reveals flawed drug system

These recommendations from the Institute of Medicine make quite a bit of sense. I like the idea of a mandatory re-evaluation of a new product within five years.

I suppose these concepts are being brought forward with the goal of preventing another Vioxx or Baycol incident. My concern is that these measures won't prevent the inevitable questionable prescribing of the latest new drugs over tried-and-true therapies that are lacking some tiny advantage that was pointed out by a drug rep.

From the Globe and Mail:
A new report that calls for a major overhaul of the way prescription drugs are regulated and monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also has applicability to Health Canada, medical experts say.

The report, released Friday by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, recommends that consumer alerts be put on the labels of all new drugs for a two-year period. Other recommendations include a mandatory re-evaluation of the safety and efficacy of new drugs within five years of their approval for use. ...more

Canada to Let Biolyse Make Generic Version of Roche's Tamiflu

From Bloomberg:
Biolyse Pharma Corp., a closely held Canadian firm, may soon become the first company to use a World Trade Organization treaty to make a low-cost generic copy of Roche Holding AG's Tamiflu and help developing countries fight a potential avian-flu pandemic.

The Canadian government on Sept. 21 added the drug, also known as oseltamivir, to a list of patented medicines that can be produced and exported to developing countries even as the patent remains active, a process called compulsory licensing, Doug Clark, Industry Canada's director of patent policy, said in an interview today. The list, which was established in compliance with the 2003 WTO treaty and contains 58 drugs, hasn't yet been used. ...more

Co-founder of online drug industry scales back after counterfeit allegations

Here's another RxNorth article, quoting the owner Andrew Strempler. It's difficult to say from the article how involved he will be in the new arrangement. It has been my understanding that he hasn't been too involved in day-to-day operations in Minnedosa for some time.

It appears that the pharmacy staff in Minnedosa will be let go. I have not seen any mention of the Barbados operation run by RxNorth, but I would expect that it will be closed up as well.

From CBC News:
A Manitoba co-founder of the multimillion-dollar online pharmacy industry is scaling back his business after allegations that his websites sold counterfeit drugs., owned by Andrew Strempler, has contracted its dispensing operation to, the largest player in the industry.

"This decision was made in the interest of continuity of patient care, medication supply and to maintain the same high standards of customer service and safety that has always provided," the company said in new release Wednesday. ...more

Internet pharmacy moves part of operation out of Minnedosa

It was bound to happen eventually. One of the first and largest Canadian online pharmacies is transferring its operations to a competitor. The fact that it's RxNorth shouldn't be a big shock. After the FDA warnings in the summer, the company was looking at a difficult road to recovery, especially in a trying online pharmacy market.

From CBC News:
Minnedosa, Man.-based internet pharmacy is shutting down its distribution operation there and moving it to a Winnipeg company, due to American concerns over drug safety., which is operated by Mediplan Global Health Inc., will transfer its operation to another company,, which is based in Winnipeg. ...more

Thursday, September 21, 2006

U.S. TV ad campaign backs purchase of Canadian drugs

The American midterm elections will be happening soon. I don't expect importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada to be remotely as important as it is was in the 2004 elections. However, I'm sure some politicians will try to get some attention by bringing up the topic. The AARP has decided to run a series of TV ads in the districts of "importation friendly" Senators.

From the Globe and Mail:
An advocacy group for the elderly is launching a $500,000 (U.S.) ad campaign Sunday in 14 states pushing for Senate action on legislation that would let consumers buy U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.

The ads will appear in newspapers and on radio David Certner, legislative policy director for the advocacy group, said the campaign focuses on the home states of senators who have shown some openness to letting people buy U.S.-made medicine shipped abroad.

Drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes also seems to prevent it in high risk cases

I wonder if the results of this study will result in high risk patients starting Avandia. I seem to remember a similar study regarding metformin, but I don't think it ever gained any traction.

From CBC News:
A drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes appears to prevent onset of the disease in some people who at high risk of developing it, authors of a large international study reported Friday.

The Canadian-led trial found people who took the drug rosiglitazone (sold as Avandia) and who were given advice about lowering their risk through diet and exercise were substantially less likely to develop diabetes in the three years of followup than people who received lifestyle advice and took a placebo. ...more

Pharmacist had 'friend'

The fake Norvasc in Hamilton trial is adjorned for a month or so, but here is a rather interesting article about the testimony of one of the drugstore's pharmacy assistants. She claims she found nothing unusual about the directive to not order Norvasc from traditional sources, even after the tablets looked different. I'm not sure if she came off as loyal to her employer or simply oblivious, but I can't imagine she looked that great on the stand.

From the Hamilton Spectator:
When RCMP entered the King West Pharmacy in June 2005 looking for counterfeit drugs, their attention was caught by a note on the wall where the fast-selling medications were kept.

The handwritten poster said: "Don't order any Norvasc. Ask Abs."

Pharmacist Abadir Nasr, who bought the Hamilton business in August 2004, had told staff not to order the cardiovascular medication from their regular wholesaler because he had a friend who would be supplying the store. ...more

Governor Blagojevich to expand prescription drug plan

Some harsh words for the I-Save-Rx program...

From WLS-TV (Ill.):
The Illinois auditor general says importing prescription drugs from Canada is not only illegal -- it doesn't help many seniors. But Governor Rod Blagojevich announced plans Tuesday to expand the state's prescription drug program.

The governor launched the program nearly two years ago to help Illinois seniors cut the cost of their medications. But Illinois Auditor General William Holland says the program not only violates federal law -- it's a failure. ...more

Monday, September 18, 2006

Naperville woman's medicine cut off

From the Joliet (Ill.) Herald News:
Grace Wojtowicz of Naperville has fallen into the doughnut hole and it isn't sweet.

Last February, Wojtowicz, 71, signed up for Medicare Part D, joining the 22.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who now obtain their prescription drugs under the program. At first, her $49 premiums under Part D were less than what she had been paying to order her drugs from Minitdrug, a Canadian pharmacy based in Calgary. ...more

Thursday, September 14, 2006

2nd heist rattles pharmacist

Another crime story relating to Canadian pharmacy. This one involves a pharmacist as a crime victim instead of being the perpetrator.

From the Ottawa Sun:
A pharmacist who's been robbed at gunpoint twice in the past month says police need to step up patrols to protect small retailers from armed robbers.

"We need more protection. There are certain pockets of the city that need more surveillance and more patrolling," said the owner of the Montreal Rd. Pharmacy.

"If the police know that there is a pharmacy that's been hit a couple of times, they should have a constant surveillance, whether it be undercover or whatever, to keep a watchful eye on us," said the pharmacist who didn't want his name published out of fear for his safety. ...more

Sight blurred after dizziness

I get the impression that updates from the courtroom are going to be a reasonably regular feature at Canada Pharmacy News over the next while. This post has two links: the first one was published yesterday and can be seen here.

I don't see much new in either report compared to the first one. More patients testified about problems associated with taking fake Norvasc. I find it reprehensible that the pharmacist dismissed their claims. Maybe he (misguidedly) thought that he could make more money by using cheap foreign Norvasc but once the problems started to reveal themselves, he should've put a stop to the whole thing and tried to make things right.

From the Hamilton Spectator:
John Dindial awoke the morning of April 24 last year feeling extremely dizzy, then his sight went blurry and the room began to go black.

The 69-year-old Hamilton man was visiting a friend in Scarborough who took him to the Rouge Valley Centenary Hospital. The patient, who had diabetes and high blood pressure, had been controlling his hypertension for about 12 years with a cardiovascular drug known as Norvasc.

Problems with the blog

There have been some technical difficulties with the blog. Hopefully they are fixed shortly.

New pharmacy 16 years in works

I love hearing a success story like this. After many years of hard work, an couple opens an independent pharmacy. I really hope they can make the business work.

From the London (Ont.) Free Press:
Andrew and Bonnie Gurgul realized one dream 16 years ago when they came to Canada and a second dream five months ago when Andrew opened an independent pharmacy.

For the Gurguls, it hasn't always been easy. The Polish immigrants first left their native land for Germany in the late 1980s, when communism was falling and tough living conditions got tougher. ...more

Rx for excellence

Here's an article about the new pharmacy school at the University of Toronto. It seems to be a definite improvement over the old facilities. There's no shortage of corporate names attached to it, but I suppose that's the way things are these days. The "hanging classrooms" and bookless library sound pretty cool.

From the Toronto Star:
Suddenly this fall, pharmacy student Jason Lam feels like he's on Star Trek.

To enter his weekly fall seminar about the drug industry, the fourth-year student must cross a catwalk into a sleek silver classroom that hangs like a spaceship in mid-air over the student lounge.

It's one of two egg-shaped lecture "pods" suspended in the glassy five-storey atrium in the University of Toronto's dramatic new pharmacy digs at the corner of College St. and University Ave. As undergraduates arrived this week for their first classes in the new $75 million building, the airy design by British architect Norman Foster won top marks from many. ...more

Pharmacist's trial told of numb face

The trial of the Hamilton pharmacist who allegedly was selling fake Norvasc started this week. The article below provides some compelling information. It sounds like an inquistive patient and pharmacist got the investigation rolling. This whole episode is a black mark on the profession, but thankfully is not representative of pharmacy in general.

From the Hamilton Spectator:
Beryl Preston was flying home to Canada from a winter holiday in Cuba when one side of her face went suddenly numb.

The retired Dofasco employee, who was taking six different medications for high blood pressure and other ailments, got the attention of a flight attendant, explaining the numbness was spreading across her face toward one eye....more

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pharmacists' touch brings patients relief

Here's an article discussing compounding pharmacists in Toronto. It's worth a read...

From the Toronto Star:
Pharmacist Richard Stein has a special way of getting personal with his patients.

Not only does he have intimate knowledge of which medicinal ingredients they can or can't tolerate, he often even knows what flavours they prefer.

He is a compounding pharmacist, which means he customizes doctor-prescribed medicines for patients with special, individualized needs — people and animals....more

Friday, September 08, 2006

Rae pledges catastrophic drug plan if elected federal Liberal leader

It was bound to come up at some point...proposing a national pharmacare program has been brought up by a Liberal leadership candidate. This article suggests that Bob Rae is more interested in developing a plan that can only be accessed under catastrophic circumstances as opposed to a universal plan that all Canadians would be obligated to be part of. However, the article then quotes him talking about replacing existing provincial plans so I'm really not sure what he wants.

I don't know the mechanisms of some of the other provincial drug plans, but I don't think a federal plan would be any better than what is already here in Alberta for example where there are mechanisms that generally prevent huge out of pocket expenses for drugs. Provinical programs completely cover transplant medications and antiretrovirals for HIV patients, and any Alberta citizen with a provincial health card can apply (and cannot be refused) to get a plan similar to what all seniors over 65 get autotmatically. The deductible for this coverage is based on income and even at the full rate it is quite affordable.

Also, isn't health care a provincial responsibility? The feds handle drug coverage for refugees, First Nations peoples, and veterans but these are exceptions.

From the Canadian Press:
Canada needs a national catastrophic drug program to help patients who face bankruptcy when their health demands that they pay for a costly, life-saving drug, federal Liberal leadership hopeful Bob Rae said Thursday.

The so-called Maple Leaf Drug Plan comprises the centrepiece of a six-point health-care campaign platform Rae unveiled Thursday as part of his effort to succeed Paul Martin as leader of the federal Liberal party. ...more

'Expert pharmacists' get go-ahead in UK

It's not really Canadian pharmacy news, but I thought there are some interesting parallels between the expansion of pharmacists' roles in Britain and in Alberta.

From BBC News:
Patients will soon be able to consult "expert pharmacists" under plans revealed by the government.
They will be able to offer advice and support for people with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and sexually transmitted infections.

The first specialists are set to be in place across England from next summer, the government said. ...more

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Delayed availability of Influenza Vaccine for the 2006-07 Season - Statement - Public Health Agency of Canada

I have not heard any of the major media sources (newspapers, television news) report this information yet. I think that's a bit unusual as this can be played up as a huge story even though it's probably not that big a deal. When they eventually notice, I'm sure we will see the usual inferences to a potential pandemic, which always seems to catch attention.

From Health Canada:
Flu vaccine manufacturers have reported problems growing one of the strains recommended for this season’s flu shot. As a result, the vaccine should be available to the provinces and territories at the end of October or beginning of November.

This is about a month later than usual in some jurisdictions and means that the timeframe for the delivery of public programs will be compressed. People, however, should be able to receive the vaccine before the peak of the flu season, which typically does not occur until mid-December or later. ...more

Antiretroviral drugs keep HIV-positive triathlete on track for world event

Here's a good little article talking about how antiretroviral therapy can change patients' lives.

From the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
As a triathlete with HIV, Scott Simpson says the reason he can race in the world triathlon championship Saturday is because he’s part of the lucky minority to be on antiretroviral drugs.

The 40-year-old from Toronto will race in the men’s 40-44 age group at the world championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Canada’s elite triathletes, led by Olympic gold medallist Simon Whitfield, will race Sunday in the 1.5-kilometre swim, 40-kilometre bike and 10-kilometre run. ...more

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

CIPA responds

Here is the press release put out by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association responding to the claims that MediPlan has shipped counterfeit products. I don't think it says anything too different from what would be expected.

I have put links to two other articles regarding the ongoing story. The CTV News article does a pretty good recap.

From CTV News:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration rattled Canada's online pharmacists Wednesday with a report that found fake versions of Lipitor and other widely used prescription drugs were sold by websites linked to a co-founder of the industry.

But the past president of Canada's largest industry lobby group is urging people not to jump to conclusions until key questions are answered about the drugs and whether they truly are counterfeit. ...more

From USA Today:
One of Canada's largest Internet pharmacies — the one credited as the birthplace of the cross-border drug industry — is selling counterfeit drugs to U.S. consumers, the FDA said Wednesday.

The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers that sub-par versions of Lipitor, Crestor, Celebrex and seven other drugs shipped by Mediplan Prescription Plus Pharmacy were seized en route to Americans during the past few weeks. ...more

OPINION: The world is not an ice cream cone

In the effort to expand this blog's range of content, I'm attaching a link to an opinion from which I thought was interesting. From time to time when I see something of note, I will pass it on and let you judge for yourself. I'll attempt to give different viewpoints if possible. My main criteria will be

1) Is there a logical thought process to the commentary?
2) Does the commentary inspire thought and/or discussion?

Regarding this article, I think it raises some good points. Drug companies in Canada have to market to consumers in a much more indirect fashion than we see in the U.S.A. Sometimes I think we would be better off with the direct (yet sometimes squirm-inducing) ads as opposed to the Canadian nudge-nudge wink-wink approach.

FYI, television ads for prescription medications in Canada may contain the name of the product but not discuss what it treats OR it can discuss the illness being treated but not mention the name of the drug. That's why the Canadian Viagra ads are, in my opinion, not in the public's better interest compared to the U.S. ones that have to list warnings and side effects.

Friday, September 01, 2006

FDA stands by warning against Canadian web pharmacy

There is no shortage of articles about the FDA allegations that MediPlan is shipping counterfeit drugs. Their statements don't provide any definitive evidence and considering their past comments regarding Canadian pharmacies, I'd like to see more information. However, the FDA warnings in the past have tended to be more vague and has never been this specific naming a specific location.

MediPlan's president doesn't help his public relations cause when he refuses to mention the location of his non-Canadian pharmacy. He said in the Globe and Mail article below, "I hesitate to put that information out there, because it's another way they target us," when it is public knowledge that the pharmacy ships out of the Bahamas. It's even mentioned in this CTV report.

I wonder if there is any connection between the FDA warning and the release of a poll that says 80% of Americans would be okay with the importation of medications from Canada and other countries.

From the Globe and Mail:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration blindsided Canada's on-line pharmacists Wednesday with a report that found fake versions of Lipitor and other widely used prescription drugs were sold by websites linked to a co-founder of the industry.

But the past president of Canada's largest industry lobby group is urging people not to jump to conclusions until key questions are answered about the drugs and whether they truly are counterfeit. ...more

From CBC News:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it stands by its warning to Americans not to buy drugs from a Manitoba-based internet pharmacy, claiming the drugs are counterfeit.

The FDA issued a news release on Wednesday warning against ordering 10 specific prescription drugs from 10 websites, including, and ...more