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Date Posted: 06:20:52 10/05/03 Sun
Author: Jill
Subject: Canada: Change in law prescribed for online pharmacies

Change in law prescribed for online pharmacies

WINNIPEG - Manitoba's internet pharmacies are under fire as they go before a federal government committee.

A House of Commons standing committee on health heard Thursday that internet pharmacies aren't making people in this province any healthier and may be open to fraud.

Manitoba's internet pharmacy industry is now worth $1.2 billion a year, much of it thanks to cross border sales of prescription drugs to the US.

Critics say the booming sector is not only taking drugs away from Manitobans, but also siphons off the already-short number of pharmacists available to serve them.

Michelle Fontaine is with the Coalition for Manitoba Pharmacy.

"The initial shortage wasn't caused by the internet," says Fontaine. "But how does losing twenty per cent more of an already desperate situation make it okay or make it better?"

Fontaine's group says there are also no assurances that the doctors who prescribe the internet drugs are authentic.

Often, she says, they've never even met the people to whom they're prescribing drugs.

The Coalition told the Committee the industry operates without enough regulations or accountability.

There were no representatives of internet pharmacies on hand to give their side of the debate.

That was left up to provincial Health Minister Dave Chomiak.

"The regulations were developed in a pre-technological age," admits Chomiak. "The technology has overtaken the regulations."

Chomiak went on to say internet pharmacies are healthy for the province's economy.

"The fact is they provide income and they help keep the provinces economy robust."

Chomiak says his government is working on a new plan to regulate the industry but he would not say when it might be ready.

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