WINNIPEG, MB, Dec. 14 /PRNewswire/ - A former senior Health Canada official who now works for the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) issued an opinion in 2003, stating that the Manitoba government does not have the authority to allow pharmacists to dispense prescriptions written by U.S. doctors. In an email memorandum dated June 18, 2003, Randy Stephanchew, then Acting Operational Manager of Health Canada's Health Products and Food Branch, Manitoba and Saskatchewan Regional Operational Centre, told the Registrar of the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association (MPhA) that the federal law governing who can prescribe medicines is "paramount under constitutional law" over provincial laws. Mr. Stephanchew left the federal government at the end of 2003 and is now the Vice President of Standards and Treasurer of CIPA, the lobby group for the cross-border internet pharmacy industry. "There's no way the Manitoba government can make this legal," said Lothar Dueck, a community pharmacist in Vita, Manitoba and President of the Coalition for Manitoba Pharmacy. "The internet pharmacists' own lobbyist, when he worked for Health Canada, has said it won't work. It seems to me that the cross border drug traders and the Manitoba government are desperate, and they're pressuring the pharmacy and medical regulators to do whatever it takes to save the embattled and shrinking internet pharmacy industry." Mr. Stephanchew's memorandum makes it clear that proposed changes to provincial laws by the Manitoba government, in order to facilitate the dispensing of prescription drugs by cross-border internet pharmacies, would not have legal force. Specifically, Mr. Stephanchew noted that "the definition of 'practitioner' in the Food and Drug Regulations does require that a patient reside or physician work in Canada or a particular province". Therefore any changes made by the Manitoba government to the provincial Pharmaceutical Act or Medical Act, would not be consistent with the federal Food and Drugs Act, which takes precedence. In the wake of a December 13, 2004 meeting between the Manitoba International Pharmacy Association (MIPA) and the MPhA, organized by the Manitoba Government, internet pharmacy owners were quoted as saying they were confident that provincial laws and regulations would be changed to allow internet pharmacies to fill prescriptions from U.S. doctors. This was expected to allow internet pharmacies to escape their reliance to date on "co-signing", a practice whereby Canadian-licensed doctors are paid up to $10 to add their signature to each U.S. prescription. Some doctors have made several hundred thousand dollars per year "co-signing". Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons and pharmacy regulators across Canada, as well as the federal Minister of Health have condemned this practice as "unethical and unprofessional". Changes to Facilitate Cross-Border Trade Already Rejected On June 23, 2003, the MPhA held a meeting open to all licensed pharmacists in the province. The purpose of the Special General Meeting was to vote on a proposal put forward by the Manitoba government and the internet pharmacy lobby, based on a report by provincially-appointed mediator Wally Fox-Decent. Among its other recommendations, the Fox-Decent report urged changes to Manitoba law to facilitate the dispensing of drugs by internet pharmacies, based on a U.S. prescription. The Fox-Decent report was rejected by the province's pharmacists by a vote of 307 to 271. "Manitoba's pharmacists have already told the government that we're opposed to their efforts to change laws and regulations to suit the cross-border traders," said Greg Skura, Secretary-Treasurer of the Coalition for Manitoba Pharmacy. "I think they should understand very clearly that pharmacists and doctors in Manitoba will not stand idly by if they try to interfere with the way we operate ethically as health professionals."
SOURCE Coalition for Manitoba Pharmacy