The Food and Drug Administration last week sent a letter to officials at CanaRx Services Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based firm that sells prescription drugs to Americans at discounted Canadian prices, warning the company that its operations violate U.S. laws. The FDA also said the agency would move to block CanaRx shipments into the United States if the company did not stop exporting prescription medications to U.S. consumers. The same drugs sold in the United States can cost substantially less in Canada because of the Canadian government's negotiations with drug companies for price cuts. For example, the anti-HIV medication Combivir can be bought in Canada for about two thirds its cost in the United States. CanaRx sells such medications to U.S. consumers, including providing drugs to a Springfield, Mass., municipal program for the city's 20,000 employees, retirees, and their family members. U.S. consumers fax their prescriptions to the company, which gets a Canadian doctor to rewrite the prescription so it can be filled by a Canadian pharmacy at Canadian prices and shipped to the buyers in the United States.
FDA officials did not announce when they planned to take action against CanaRx, but legal experts say it's possible the FDA will file a civil lawsuit against the Canadian firm. The FDA also may pursue legal action against state and local governments, such as the Springfield program, that purchased prescription medications from Canada. CanaRx officials say they are not breaking any U.S. or Canadian laws and will fight any efforts by the FDA to prevent their shipments to the United States.