Canada Suspends Doctor over U.S. Prescriptions; Strong Medicine Follows Failure to Examine Patients

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Byline: Marguerite Higgins, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A Canadian doctor has been suspended for two years for signing thousands of prescriptions for U.S. patients without seeing any of them, the harshest penalty yet in a crackdown against U.S. citizens trying to buy cheaper drugs there.

Dr. Daljit Singh Herar of Surrey in British Columbia admitted earlier this year that he signed thousands of prescriptions without seeing the patients face-to-face, said Dr. Doug Blackman, deputy registrar for the British Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, the provincial regulatory board that suspended Dr. Herar.

He also was charged with failing to keep proper records and lying to the college, which represents some 8,500 doctors in the province.

It is not illegal for Canadian physicians to sign prescriptions for foreign patients they have not physically treated.

But most of Canada's 10 provinces and two territories have adopted professional standards through their regulatory boards that discourage doctors from signing prescriptions without meeting and fully examining patients, Dr. Blackman said.

"A signature on a prescription is not a commodity to be bought and sold," he said.

The suspension, the fourth action the college has taken against a doctor for signing prescriptions, is the severest penalty to date from the British Columbia college. About 10 doctors nationwide have been disciplined for such action, according to the Canadian International Pharmacy Association.

The recent scandal and increasing number of U.S. residents and local governments trying to buy Canadian prescription drugs has spurred Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh to push Parliament to pass legislation that would restrict how Canadian doctors prescribe drugs to foreign patients and regulate Canadian pharmacies on the Internet.

The National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities, an Ottawa trade group for Canada's pharmacy-licensing bodies, also has endorsed a ban on exporting drugs, saying U.S. demand has caused a shortage and compromised the safety of Canadian drugs. …