Canadian health officials are drafting a proposal that could halt Internet sales of prescription drugs to U.S. consumers, which could “essentially kill” a $700 million industry, the AP/Washington Post reports (see the Washington Post article). As reported in iHealthbeat:

The three-part measure would prohibit physicians in Canada from cosigning prescriptions from U.S. patients they have not examined, ban prescriptions for foreigners who are not in Canada, and compile a list of popular Canadian drugs that cannot be exported.

Meanwhile, a new case of mad cow disease was recently confirmed in Canada. Nevertheless, this won’t affect US plans to lift a ban on Canadian beef imports imposed after a 2003 mad cow incident.

“USDA remains confident that the animal and public health measures that Canada has in place … provide the utmost protections to U.S. consumers and livestock,” Ron DeHaven, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service administrator said in a statement.

While the USDA has no qualms about Canadian animal health measures, another agency — FDA — has lots of qualms about Canadian health measures when it comes to drugs imported by US citizens. Why else would a government task force, which included Acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford, conclude that importing prescription drugs from Canada would require costly safety measures?

[The report was ordered by Congress because several drug re-importation bills are currently being considered in Congress.Two Senate bills, the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2004 (S.2328) and the Safe IMPORT Act of 2004 (S.2493). GlaxoSmithKline recently ran a one-page ad in Newsweek, which specifically targeted S.2328: “Take a wild guess where your ‘Canadian’ medicine is actually coming from.” To read more about these bills, see the Pharma Marketing News article: “Congress Fiddles While Reimportation Issue Burns“].

Canada is no doubt under tremendous pressure from the US FDA and the drug industry: “A spokesman for Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh said their government will review the report and “will do what is necessary” to ensure Canadians have access to medicines.” (Reuters as reported on Yahoo!) Looks like what is necessary is to make it much more difficult for Americans to import drugs from Canada because it they do not, drug companies have warned that they will limit supplies to Canadian pharmacies.

For you conspiracy people out there: Could it be possible that the lax US mad cow policy toward Canada is a carrot for a tougher Canadian stand against US drug importation?

P.S. Wouldn’t you know? Soon after I made the above suggestion, a story in the Washington Post suggests that I am not the only one who thinks there was a connection between Canadian mad cows and drug importation.

“MacKay[executive director of an association of Canadian mail-order pharmacies] said Canadian authorities “turned on a dime” after that meeting [between Bush and Prime Minister Paul Martin]. He said he has learned that “President Bush threw out an ultimatum,” demanding that Canada shut down the mail-order sales, possibly in exchange for U.S. concessions in lifting the ban on imports of Canadian beef. He said Bush did not want to publicly oppose the sales because many U.S. senior citizens and members of Congress are fans of the lower prescription prices.” [“Bush Accused of Influencing Canada on Drug Exports“]