U.S.-based drug companies, in an effort to prevent Canadian pharmacies from selling brand-name drugs to U.S. consumers at cheaper Canadian prices, have raised the prices they charge for their medications in Canada, The New York Times reports. Canadian laws put price caps on all medications sold in the country, and most drugs sell in Canada for a fraction of their U.S. price. Because of the lower prices, many U.S. consumers buy their prescription medications from Canadian pharmacies through online services. But Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, and Bayer have all raised the prices on at least some of the products they sell in Canada between 4% and 8% in an effort to make their drugs less appealing to U.S. consumers. AstraZeneca now requires Canadian pharmacies that receive its products to provide written guarantees that the drugs won't be sold outside the country. And officials at Gilead Sciences say they will not sell the company's anti-HIV medication Viread to Canadian pharmacies at all, Canada's National Post reports. The drug is provided by Gilead free of charge to about 1,600 Canadian HIV/AIDS patients who've developed resistance to other anti-HIV medications through a special program. But the company will not make Viread more widely available in Canada due to concerns that it will be resold to U.S. consumers, according to Canadian doctors who met with Gilead officials earlier this year.
Canadian health officials have warned that the country could face severe drug shortages if pharmaceutical companies like Gilead continue to restrict sales of their products to Canadian pharmacies. Jean Jones, former head of the health committee of the Consumers' Association of Canada, also said that there are fears that if Canadian pharmacies continue to sell drugs to Americans, eventually the price of the medications in Canada will be raised to match those charged in the United States. "Drug costs are a major topic of conversation, and there is apprehension that the American interest in buying drugs here may have an impact," he said.