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GlaxoSmithKline and Canadian Pharmacies

Clark, Paul

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000289614.72211.31

LETTERS: GSK announced last month that it would no longer supply prescription drugs to Canadian wholesalers and pharmacies that export medicines outside Canada, saying that ordering medicines over the Internet puts patients at risk. The CEO of a large pharmacy in Canada explains why he believes the consequences of this action are potentially grave, especially for cancer patients in the US.

Pharmacist and CEO Hometown Meds Carmen, Manitoba, Canada

On January 21 GlaxoSmithKline stopped supplying drugs to Canadian pharmacies that ship prescription medications to US citizens at significant discount. The consequences of this action are potentially grave, especially for cancer patients in the United States.

Right now thousands of uninsured and elderly American cancer patients are being treated with drugs such as Alkeran, Imuran, Leukeran, Purinethol, and Zofran—all of which are used in chemotherapy regimes, all of which are produced by Glaxo, and all of which are very expensive if purchased in the United States. More and more, these patients have been turning to Canadian pharmacies, where US citizens can pay as much as 80% less for prescription drugs.

Glaxo is attempting to stop this practice in its tracks.

While various wholesale companies will continue to provide me and others like me with the supplies our customers desperately need, the pharmacy, medical, and patient communities should take little comfort from this fact. Glaxo's move will no doubt trigger similar action from other large pharmaceutical manufacturers, which could eventually cause serious supply and delivery problems for all types of medications.

Worse still, the pharmaceutical industry's next move could then be to quash any shipment of drugs by wholesalers, who represent my last line of defense in helping sick and terminally ill Americans.

Glaxo claims it is taking action to ensure that Canadian pharmacists comply with US Food and Drug Administration regulations and to ensure that drugs are properly packaged and shipped. But these two reasons are disingenuous. The FDA has long taken a tolerant view toward US citizens purchasing lifesaving medications from Canada for personal use. This is not simply my opinion; it is a matter of public record. Regarding the safety of shipping drugs to Americans, I would like to ask Glaxo how it thinks pharmacists like me received the supplies to begin with?

What is most offensive, however, is that all of this is happening against a backdrop defined by the following corporate statement that the company's “mission is to improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.”

Funny, I would have never guessed.

Paul Clark

Pharmacist and CEO, Hometown Meds, Carmen, Manitoba, Canada

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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