Magazine article Drug Topics

New Campaign to Combat Canadian Internet Rx Invasion

Magazine article Drug Topics

New Campaign to Combat Canadian Internet Rx Invasion

Article excerpt


The National Association of Chain Drug Stores said at a mid-March meeting that it is taking steps to combat the problem of Americans obtaining prescriptions from Canada via rogue Internet sites.

Pharmacists, drug manufacturers, and distributors met at a Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA) meeting in Orlando, Fla., last month to become more familiar with the legality of-and their response to-the problem of the Canadian Internet prescription invasion. Retail pharmacists "have to buy at one price and [Canadian Internet pharmacies] have to buy at another. It's unfair competition to pharmacists and manufacturers," said Don Bell, associate general counsel for NACDS.

More American consumers say they are either traveling across the border to Canada to pick up Rxs or ordering them on the Internet. They reportedly save 40% on prescriptions on average, and one Canadian Internet company boasts that it can save Americans as much as 70%.

While the practice of ordering Rxs on-line is not illegal, several state and federal laws require that a doctor physically sees the patient before medication is prescribed. And legitimate Internet firms are aligning with doctors who talk to patients on-line and over the phone, then write Rxs. However, Internet firms that import from Canada and do not follow these practices face legal action.

Bell said NACDS is taking several steps to combat the problem (and HDMA has offered to assist in the process). These include:

* Develop a consumer education campaign, which will stress that, when Rxs are filled through unknown sources rather than the individual's community R.Ph., consumers cannot be sure about the quality and safety of the products. The campaign in certain states will likely include print, TV, and radio advertising.

* Work with the Food & Drug Administration on its consumer education campaign (which will carry a message similar to that of NACDS'), set to be launched this summer.

* Prepare letters to various state attorneys general, citing specific companies that are illegally importing Rx drugs from Canada and selling them over the Internet, then ask the officials to "do something about it."

Meanwhile, Robert Waters, an attorney with Arent Fox Attorneys at Law, Washington, D.C., recommended against fighting this battle in Congress. Currently, legislative representatives are more concerned with protesting Americans' rights to buy prescriptions in Canada than with shutting down these operations. …

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