February 23, 2006

Industry observers in Canada are warning against proposed regulations that will allow internet pharmacies to export drugs to the US, claiming they could cause shortages of medicines in the country. It is estimated that if the proposals go ahead the number of US citizens eligible to purchase drugs from Canada would rise to approximately 119mn.

Due to price controls, drugs in Canada cost on average 60% less than in the US. As a result, US patients often re-import drugs into their country, much to the displeasure of the research-based drug manufacturing industry.

Some market watchers in Canada have claimed that in order to prevent the possibility of supplies running low, drug prices in the country should be liberalised. The Federal Government has recently approached the matter in a different way, proposing to establish an export restriction scheme, which involves the creation of a list of drugs that cannot not be exported in the event of a shortage.

However, Canada's new Health Minister Tony Clement has stated that reducing patient waiting times for hospital treatment will be his legislative priority. Under the new measures, if a patient is not treated in appropriate time the health authorities will be liable to either pay for private treatment or move the patient to a province where treatment is available.