Canada urged to prevent drug shortages from US imports

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There were media reports this week that Innovative Medicines Canada (IMC) Canada’s main pharmaceutical lobby group has urged the government not to wait for drug shortages before responding to U.S. plans to import Canadian drugs.

In one early version of its talking points, the IMC proposed the Canadian government ban all drug exports “unless otherwise permitted by regulation.”

“Wholesalers should not be permitted to export drugs in bulk from Canada, and there should be strict and significant penalties for exporting drugs where their export is prohibited by law,” a document prepared in May said.

The lobby group’s efforts so far suggest industry is eager to derail the Trump administration’s plan. IMC’s members include major drug companies based in the United States and abroad, and large-scale shipments of cheap drugs from Canada could lower their profits.

The group works closely with PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry’s U.S lobbying group.

“Our government’s priority is ensuring that all Canadians can get and afford the medications they need,” Alexander Cohen, a spokesman for Canada’s health minister, said in a statement.

“All statements and decisions surrounding Canada’s drug supply are made based in the best interest of Canadians, and we are examining all options to ensure it remains secure.”

In the position papers reviewed by Reuters, the IMC warned it may not be possible for drug manufacturers to enforce contract terms with Canadian buyers that forbid the re-export of drugs.

Even if the U.S. plan proceeds as the administration has promised, shipments could be a year or more away, because of consultations required to pass new regulations.

The IMC documents suggest that a “first step” for the Canadian government would be to state publicly that it will act to protect drugs intended for Canadian patients in the event of any shortages.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered something like that message personally last Thursday, at an event in the Arctic city of Iqaluit.

“We recognize the new situation brought on by American announcements, and Health Canada will continue to ensure that our priority is always ensuring that Canadians have access to the medication they need at affordable prices,” he said.

It has been reported that Canadian officials had privately warned the United States of their opposition to any import programs as it could threaten Canada’s supply or raise costs for Canadians.
This is a prickly issue that could have serious consequences for trade and Canadians. -CINEWS

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