AstraZeneca announced this week that it will begin limiting sales of its medications to Canadian pharmacies and wholesalers that reimport drugs to the United States, making the company the second major drugmaker to take steps to prevent Canadian drug supplies from being sold to U.S. consumers. GlaxoSmithKline, a major manufacturer of anti-HIV medications, announced in January that it would stop selling its products to Canadian pharmacies and wholesalers that reimported the medications to the United States. Because of cost controls, most brand-name drugs sell in Canada for a fraction of their U.S. prices, and many American consumers either travel to Canada to buy their medications at the cheaper prices or order the drugs from Canadian pharmacies through online services.
In an April 8 letter to Canadian business, AstraZeneca said the new policy was implemented to address "unexpected sales increases" in Canada. Rachel Bloom Baglin, an AstraZeneca spokeswoman, said the new policy is intended to ensure that the increased sales are not affecting access for Canadian citizens, but she did confirm that the company would be looking carefully at companies that reimport medications to the United States.
Although AstraZeneca does not manufacture any HIV antiretrovirals, the company does produce dozens of medications in six therapeutic areas, including oncology, pain management, and cardiovascular disease. The company's products include the blockbuster medications Prilosec and Nexium, both used to treat acid reflux.