Canadian Pharmacies' Push Back on Reimportation

October 20, 2004 ( - An association of Canada's mail-order pharmacies is voicing concerns about the possibilities of signing commercial contracts with American government agencies after one if its members broke ranks.

The Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) is reaffirming its policy of not signing contracts with American government agencies regarding the wholesale importation of cheap Canadian drugs after one of its members, Total Care Pharmacy, violated the policy by signing an agreement with the City of Boston (See Boston Kicks Off Drug Reimportation Program ).

A September 18 meeting brought heated discussion on the subject, with some of the 35 members worried that other pharmacies not in the organization would reap the profits brought by such moves. CIPA members supply 80% of total drug exports to the US, according to the Washington Times. They do not, as a matter of practice, supply governmental organization with drugs, according to the report.

The controversy has resurfaced in the wake of the flu vaccine shortage in the US. CIPA members recently decided to not allow exportation of the vaccine to America because of transportation problems – the vaccine must be kept cold – as well as worries about the supply in Canada. However, new federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh has publicly stated that if asked, Canada would enter into talks with the US government about possible solutions.

Worries persist inside and outside CIPA regarding a massive increase in pharmaceutical drug exportation to the US. The $790 million industry would be hard pressed to expand at a rate that some project would bring exportation up to $40 billion within a short amount of time. The effect could be higher prices for Canadian consumers, many believe. CIPA officials suggest that the US approach the European Union if they are intent on importing a large amount of drugs.

Many states have begun to offer forums from which American consumers can access Canadian online pharmacies, with some government agencies going as far as to sign contracts with Canadian companies in order to secure cheaper drugs for employees (See Northern Exposure ).