In a spate of moves on the part of governments, consumers and regulatory agencies, a cross-border drama continues in the pharmaceutical sector driven primarily by the influence of the Internet on the industry’s distribution system. (See an earlier news item in E-TIPSâ„¢, Vol 2, No 15, January 8, 2004).
One element of the conflict pits US federal regulators against State and local governments. In a news item carried by Associated Press on February 26, it was reported that the senior US government regulator, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Mark McClellan, has been named to lead a study of the issue of the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, in the context of the US Medicare legislation. The McClellan appointment has drawn fire from both Congressional legislators and seniors’ advocates since he has already made his views known, namely that the re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada is inherently unsafe. Despite that, two States, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and several cities in Alabama and Massachusetts have encouraged or even acted as principal in the Internet-assisted importation of drugs from Canada.
On the same day, it was reported in USA Today and the National Post that a seniors couple in a Chicago suburb, Ray and Gaylee Andrews, is seeking class status for an action to declare that the FDA’s anti-importation stance has violated consumers’ rights under the US Constitution. The claim, in part, asserts discrimination because the FDA has taken no action against the importation of drugs through personal travel or mail order, but only against the ordering of drugs via the Internet.
In an earlier move involving yet another element in the complex distribution system of prescription drugs, the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce in December wrote to two prominent courier companies, FedEx Corp and UPS Inc, asking them to divulge what steps they routinely take to combat “enablers from facilitating illicit Internet pharmacies”.
On the Canadian side of the border, Internet pharmacies are being pressed by the pharmaceutical companies to constrain cross-border sales. In a Canadian Press story published on February 23, it was reported that Pfizer Canada Inc has alerted wholesalers that it may not continue to supply products that are to be re-sold to Internet pharmacies. The story goes on to note that while the Canadian Government has been reluctant to wade into the debate so far, it continues to monitor the situation, to assure supplies within Canada.
As demonstrated by the Andrews’ class action claims in Illinois, it seems clear that the advent of the Internet represents a disruptive technology for the pharmaceutical sector.
For the story regarding the new US government study, see:
For the news item about the class action against the FDA, visit:
For the web site of the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce, see:
For the news story on the Canadian marketplace, see:
Summary by: Amy-Lynne Williams