Manitoba Pharmacists Can't Fill U.S. Prescriptions, Internet Pharmacy Executive Said in 2003

Former Health Canada Official Now Works for Internet Pharmacy Lobby Group

Internet Pharmacy Idea Already Rejected by Manitoba Pharmacists

Dec 14, 2004, 00:00 ET from Coalition for Manitoba Pharmacy

    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