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