Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world.
TORONTO (AP) -- Canada's health minister threatened Wednesday to overhaul the country's regulations on exporting prescription drugs, saying Canada would no longer be a cheap "drugstore for the United States."
Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh said Canada would ban the bulk export of prescription drugs when their supplies were low at home. But he left vague how the ban would be put into place -- and whether it would affect the thousands of individual purchases that take place across the U.S.-Canada border and over the Internet.
The ban is an attempt to head off an anticipated onslaught of drug demands from Americans if legislation pending in Congress legalizes Internet and bulk import of prescription drugs from Canada.
"Canada cannot be a drugstore for the United States of America; 280 million people cannot expect us to supply drugs to them on a continuous, uncontrolled basis," Dosanjh said at a news conference.
Canadians must be assured access to an adequate supply of safe and affordable prescription drugs, Dosanjh said.
Individual sales would not necessarily be affected by the ban. The ban could, however, affect drug wholesalers or manufacturers in Canada, who now are not permitted to export to the United States under U.S. law, but could do so under the legislation being considered in Congress.
Bulk export legislation
He said he would introduce legislation when the House of Commons reconvenes this fall that would allow for the temporary ban of bulk exports when supplies run low at home.
He also intends to establish a drug supply network within the federal health ministry and will work with provinces and pharmaceutical companies to provide more comprehensive data on Canada's prescription drug supply.
Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world, and U.S. lawmakers are pushing to legalize the importation of wholesale prescription drugs as well as Internet purchases from Canada and other countries. Four bills are pending in Congress, but have met with opposition from the pharmaceutical lobby.