Concern over U.S. legislation that allows Americans to import cheaper medicines from Canada has prompted more than a dozen organizations to urge the federal government to safeguard the Canadian drug supply.
In a letter this week, the 15 groups representing patients, health professionals, hospitals, and pharmacists warn Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor of the potential for increasing drug shortages.
“The Canadian medicine supply is not sufficient to support both Canadian and U.S. consumers,” the letter states. “The supply simply does not, and will not, exist within Canada to meet such demands.”
Faced with voter anger over the steep and rising costs of drugs in the U.S., several states — including Florida with the blessing of President Donald Trump — have passed laws allowing residents to import drugs from Canada.
The Canadian medicine supply is not sufficient to support both Canadian and U.S. consumers
In the letter to Petitpas Taylor, the groups say the legislation could exacerbate drug shortages that become an increasingly serious concern in the Canadian health care system in recent years.
“Hospital and community pharmacies in Canada are resourced to serve the Canadian public,” they say. “They are not equipped to support to the needs of a country 10 times its size without creating important access or quality issues.”
Petitpas Taylor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The issue has recently garnered attention on both sides of the border. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democrat presidential candidate, has announced plans to accompany diabetics this weekend to Canada to buy life-saving insulin, which costs roughly one-10th the price here than in the States.
Late last month, another group of Type 1 diabetics from Minnesota crossed the border to buy insulin in London, Ont. One of the organizers said soaring prices south of the border had forced some users to ration their doses with potentially serious health consequences.
Drug supplies are already an issue in Canada. In recent years, Canadian drug makers have reported thousands of shortages for various reasons — often because of manufacturing issues but also due to increased demand. U.S. legislative initiatives could make matters much worse, the letter states.
According to data from the National Academy for State Health Policy, more than 27 different bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures over the past year allowing Americans to buy drugs from Canadian sources.
Signatories to the letter, including the Canadian Pharmacists Association, Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, urge Ottawa to take action to head off Americans’ “draining of Canada’s medicine supply.”