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Report Indicates Savings Drop On Drug Imports from Canada

By Christopher Rowland

The Boston Globe

Pressure from U.S. drug companies and more recently President Bush is causing the pendulum to swing against importation of Canadian prescription drugs.

The average savings on popular drugs from Canada dipped sharply to 29 percent in late 2004 from 38 percent in early January 2003, according to a report to be released Wednesday by PharmacyChecker.com, a for-profit Web site that monitors drug prices.

A key reason for the decline in savings, according to the report, was pharmaceutical manufacturers imposing supply curbs on Canadian wholesalers.

Meanwhile, the trade group representing Canadian Internet pharmacies, which have built cross-border shipments to Americans into a $700 million industry in just a few years, said Tuesday it is bracing for a crackdown by Prime Minister Paul Martin’s government.

The trade group said the government’s plan for a crackdown picked up steam after a discussion between Martin and Bush during the president’s trade visit to Ottawa on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

“This is ultimately a result of the pressure by George Bush on the Canadian government,” said David MacKay, executive director of Canadian International Pharmacy Association, which is based in the province of Manitoba, home of the highest concentration of Canada’s 120 Internet pharmacies.

Canadian Health Minister Ujall Dosanjh has confirmed that Bush discussed the Canadian importation issue with Martin during the trade talks. A spokesman for Dosanjh, Ken Polk, without naming Bush directly, said Tuesday that members of the American trade team told Martin that it “might be difficult” for Bush to veto a bill legalizing imports if the U.S. Congress passes one next year.

The warning has stoked Canadian concerns that if imports are legalized in the United States, increased demand from U.S. consumers would drain Canada’s supply. Dosanjh said during a recent visit to Harvard Medical School in Boston that Canada could not serve as medicine chest for Americans looking for bargains.