Opposition to Rx Importing Softens...

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

The opposition to legalizing prescription drug imports from Canada isbeginning to crumble, as both government officials and retail pharmacyleaders respond to growing public pressure to permit cross-border Rx sales.

The first major crack came from deep within the Bush administration,which has steadfastly opposed prescription importation because of drugsafetyconcerns. Noting that a number of bills are pending in the House andSenate that would permit Americans to have their prescriptions filled byforeign pharmacies, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary TommyThompson announced that he will urge President Bush not to veto suchlegislation if it is passed by Congress.

Thompson's about-face came as some community pharmacy leaders reassessedtheir own opposition to Rx importation arrangements. The first todo so was CVS' Chief Executive Officer Tom Ryan. He said that his chain wouldsupport at least a partial lifting of the restrictions on Canadian drug imports.

"While many in our industry believe that importation is a fundamentallyflawed concept and oppose it without exception, I have come to a slightly differentview," Ryan told an HHS task force on importation. "Simply put,there are too many patients our pharmacists never see because they cannotafford the drugs we dispense, and others who are unable to pay for a full regimenof medications because it soaks up so much of their disposable income."

Under Ryan's proposal, the United States would authorize the bulk importationof medicines from Canada, as well as from other nations wheresafety and quality measures are similar to those in the United States. Theimported drugs then would be dispensed by licensed US pharmacies.

Following Ryan's testimony to the task force, officials at Walgreens saidthat their company also would support legalized Rx importation, as longas US pharmacies continue to actively participate in filling prescriptions containingCanadian drugs.