Canadian Pharmacists worry about US interest in Canadian drugs

Ontario pharmacists are already reporting a drug shortage. In their view, the Trump administration’s decision to allow Americans to legally import prescription drugs, which are cheaper in Canada, may worsen the situation.

Francesco Vella is a pharmacist who owns the Medica pharmacy in downtown Windsor. According to Mr. Vella, even before the Americans had an interest in the Canadian market, the shortage of drugs was a real problem in the country. In this context, the new American interest worries the pharmacist.

“Although only 1% of Americans will need drugs in Canada, it is [the equivalent] of 10% of our population. We are not sure if Canada, if Ontario [can] absorb so many people,” said the pharmacist.

“We need someone here [in my pharmacy] almost full-time to deal with shortages , “says Vella,” and we’ve been in this situation for a long time,” he says. At the time of publication, 1847 drugs were out of stock in the country, accounting for 23% of the Canadian inventory, according to Canada’s Shortage of Drugs.

According to Francesco Vella, several factors explain this shortage. More seniors are getting drugs, which increases demand while many manufacturers have production limits.

The Ontario government has also begun aggressively lowering prices , forcing manufacturers to relocate their drug production out of the country, such as India or China, according to Vella. Since this relocation, there have been problems [of quality] , he says.

It’s nice to have a system where everything is paid for and everything is covered, but it’s not a system that works if patients do not have access to medication.

Francesco Vella, pharmacist who owns the Medica pharmacy in Windsor

“Added to this is the US interest in Canadian drugs, a factor that worries the pharmacist. Especially the lack of interest of the American government to solve the problem,” he says. It’s a legislative problem, and it’s not a problem they want to address.” And if the US administration now relies on Canada to provide low-cost drugs, manufacturers could start putting sales limits in Canada so they do not sell at a loss,” he says.

Rob Modestino, owner of Rob’s Home Health Pharmacy in LaSalle and past president of the Ontario Pharmacy Association, believes that Americans’ interest in Canadian drugs puts our own patients at risk.

The pharmacist, who has been practicing for 30 years, says he has never seen such a serious shortage .

“In these circumstances, Canada can not provide a country 10 times larger,” he said in an interview with CBC.

“We need to provide health care for everyone, but our primary goal should be patients in our region, Ontario , says Modestino. That said, we should not refuse someone from the United States […], but buses filled with people […] put our own patients at risk,” Modestino said. in reference to Bernie Sanders’ visit to Windsor last Sunday, which accompanied a caravan of diabetics.

By email, Innovative Medicines Canada, which represents 41 members of the pharmaceutical industry, said it had informed Health Canada of concerns about potential shortages. “We would welcome a public statement by the Canadian government confirming that it will take appropriate measures to protect Canadian supplies in the event of potential shortages,” the company stated in writing.

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