September 08 2004 12:00 AM ET
Glaxo intensifies campaign against drug reimportation
Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has stepped up its efforts to stop reimportation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other Western nations with a series of newspaper advertisements saying drugs from Canadian pharmacies may not be safe or effective, The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., reports. Brand-name drugs purchased from Canada can cost U.S. consumers considerably less than if the medications were bought in the United States because of foreign price caps. Some anti-HIV drugs, for example, cost only half as much in Canada as they do in the United States. In an effort to slow drug reimportation, Glaxo and other pharmaceutical companies this spring began limiting the quantities of drugs they sell to Canadian pharmacies and wholesalers that sell the products to U.S. consumers, sparking an antitrust and consumer protection lawsuit by the Minnesota Senior Federation.
The new advertising campaign is aimed at further slowing drug reimportation, including ads that say, "Getting medicine from 'Canada' isn't the answer. But it does raise a lot of questions." Another ad says seniors can obtain a Glaxo discount card, called an "orange card," as a way to save on prescription drugs "safely ... at home."
Glaxo spokeswoman says the ads were launched because "the issue of [reimported drug] safety isn't being picked up by the press." But proponents of drug reimportation programs say Glaxo is simply trying to scare U.S. consumers from buying cheaper drugs from Canada. Bob Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, called the ads "hogwash" and said, "Consumers can safely purchase drugs from certified Canadian Internet pharmacies [and] there is no information to suggest otherwise." David MacKay, executive director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, says the Glaxo ads are merely "lobbing fear grenades."