GlaxoSmithKline issued an ultimatum this week to Canadian pharmacies: Stop selling Glaxo drugs to Americans, or the drugmaker will stop selling drugs to the pharmacies, USA Today reports. The demand was issued because most Glaxo medications, including the anti-HIV drugs AZT, 3TC, Ziagen, Combivir, and Trizivir, are sold at significantly lower prices in Canada than in the United States because Canadian laws place price caps on the medications. Some drugs cost 80% less in Canada than in the United States. A Manitoba pharmacists organization estimates that pharmacies in that province alone sell $400 million worth of drugs to Americans each year, with Glaxo medications accounting for about 10% of that total.
Most sales to U.S. residents are made through the Internet and take advantage of loopholes in importation laws that allow U.S. citizens to import drugs from other countries for personal use. A Glaxo spokesperson said the ultimatum was issued to the Canadian pharmacies not because the company is worried about losing money in U.S. drug sales but because the drugmaker has concerns that improper temperature, humidity, or radiation could damage the medications during shipping from Canada.