Interest in Canadian Rx Imports Is Turning Sour

JANUARY 01, 2005
Ken Rankin

Despite the high-profile public debate over importation of cheap prescription drugs from Canada, there is little evidence that US consumers are flocking north of the border for their medication needs.

In fact, just the opposite seems to be happening in Wisconsin where state officials established a special Web site in order to make it easier for residents to obtain prescription drugs from Canada over the Internet.

During its first 6 months in operation, the Web site transmitted fewer than 2300 prescriptions from Wisconsin residents, and interest in obtaining Canadian drugs via the Internet is waning. In August, officials reported filling only 364 prescriptions through the Web site - less than half the total number processed monthly during its first month in operation.

For their part, Canadian officials seem to be souring on efforts by US residents to buy prescription drugs north of the border.

Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh has raised concerns that an upsurge in US purchases of drugs from pharmacies in his country could lead to pharmaceutical shortages in Canada.

Although Canadian Rx sales to US consumers have leveled off to about $850 million annually and no immediate drug shortage is likely in Canada, Dosanjh is nevertheless moving to discourage cross-border Rx sales by pharmacies in his country.

According to the health minister, Canadian pharmacists and physicians who issue prescriptions to US residents without first seeing the patients are acting unethically and may be subject to disciplinary action.