Pushing for easier prescriptions

By Editing Staff
December 15, 2004
The International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia (IPA BC) is calling on the federal government to recognize that co-signing prescriptions is unnecessary. IPA BC has released a Position Paper that calls for abolishing the requirement that Canadian doctors co-sign prescriptions issued by American physicians.

The Position Paper also reviews the considerable economic benefits of the international pharmacy industry in Canada and advocates a more supportive environment. It is available at www.bcipa.com.

Ujjal Dosanjh, Liberal Minister of Health, has recently made statements threatening to shut down the industry, which employs an estimated 4,000 Canadians directly and many more indirectly. He admitted to CTV news on the weekend that U.S. President George W. Bush raised the issue with Prime Minister Paul Martin during his recent visit to Ottawa.

"Mr. Dosanjh alleges it's unethical for doctors to co-sign prescriptions issued by U.S. physicians," said Dr. Paul Zickler of IPA BC. "The fact is it's a federal regulation that requires co-signing. We think it's an unnecessary and artificial barrier to Canadian trade with the United States, and we call on the Liberal government to abolish it for the benefit of all Canadians."

Dr. Zickler added, "Health Canada itself says the cross-border trade in pharmaceuticals is an important business and is permitted under Canada's domestic laws and international trade obligations. The Liberals should stand up for Canada and the economic value of the international pharmacy business, and not give in to U.S. pressure."

The Canadian Democratic Movement, a non-profit watchdog organization that promotes Canadian sovereignty, agreed. "It's ironic to see Dosanjh, a former NDP premier from B.C., supporting the position of George W. Bush and the multi-national drug companies. We don't want Canada getting the short end of the stick again, like on softwood lumber and beef," said the organization's Executive Director, Roy Whyte. "Let's put Canadians first this time around."

Bush is responding to pressure from drug manufacturers that are opposed to American citizens having access to lower-priced Canadian pharmaceuticals. Canadian drug prices are controlled, unlike those in the U.S., where drug companies can charge higher prices that many patients, especially the elderly, cannot afford. "It's really a question of drug company profit," said Dr. Zickler.

"The government has said there's no evidence of supply problems in Canada. Besides, the federal government controls prices and the patent protection it gives to multi-national drug companies. If those companies try to put the squeeze on Canada, the federal government should squeeze them back," said Dr. Zickler.