Pfizer cuts off supplies to Canadian mail-order companies
February 20 2004 1:00 AM ET
In a move to prevent Canadian mail-order pharmacies from shipping medications to U.S. consumers, drug company Pfizer has cut off all shipments to the companies, The Washington Post reports. This includes the company's HIV nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor Rescriptor, sold through Pfizer's Agouron Pharmaceuticals division; antifungals Vfend and Diflucan, commonly used to treat AIDS-related fungal infections; lipid-lowering medication Lipitor, used to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in many HIV patients experiencing lipid increases caused by antiretroviral drugs; and the depression medication Zoloft. In a February 12 letter, Pfizer informed seven Canadian pharmacies that they were no longer approved to purchase the company's products from Pfizer Canada's authorized distributors. GlaxoSmithKline, which markets six anti-HIV medications, late last year began restricting shipments of its drugs to Canadian pharmacies that export to the United States.
Due to medication price caps enacted by Canadian lawmakers, brand-name drugs sell in Canada at a fraction of the price charged in the United States. Many anti-HIV medications sold in Canada, for example, cost less than half the amount charged for the same drugs in the United States. Because of the cheaper prices, some U.S. consumers buy their drugs from Canadian pharmacies, either in person or, as is more common, through Internet wholesalers that will ship the drugs to the United States.
Pfizer spokesman Andy McCormick said the export of the company's medications to U.S. consumers violated long-standing business terms between the company and Canadian pharmacies. McCormick added that part of the decision was based on concerns that too many of the drugs would be shipped to the United States, leaving inadequate supplies at the pharmacies for Canadian consumers. "We want to ensure that in Canada, medicines developed by Pfizer are in sufficient supply for Canadians," he said. Last month Pfizer warned Canadian pharmacies that it would continue to provide its products only to drugstores that would promise not to sell the medications to U.S. consumers.
Andy Troszok, vice president of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association and an executive at Crossborderpharmacy.com, a company specifically set up to sell Canadian drugs to U.S. consumers, told the Post that Pfizer's decision "definitely makes it more difficult for mail-order pharmacies in Canada to supply U.S. patients." He also warned that the cutoff of Pfizer drugs is threatening the health of Canadian people. "If you allow this to continue, it will create shortages in Canada," he said.