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Date Posted: 22:03:43 08/06/03 Wed
Author: Jumbo
Subject: Pfizer Cuts Off Drug Channel to Canadian Internet Pharmacies
In reply to: Observer 's message, "In the media" on 12:46:08 08/04/03 Mon

Pfizer Cuts Off Drug Channel to Canadian Internet Pharmacies

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drugmaker, cut off supplies through wholesalers to 50 Canadian pharmacies that sell its medicines to U.S. consumers for less than the company charges in its home market.

New York-based Pfizer told the companies in letters they must purchase top-selling medicines such as the Viagra impotence pill directly from the drugmaker. The pharmacies had been buying from wholesalers and shipping some orders to U.S. residents.

More than 1 million people in the U.S. use the Internet or go to Canada to buy drugs at an average discount of 67 percent to what they pay at home, consumer advocates estimate. Last month, the U.S. House passed a bill to allow the purchase drugs from countries such as Canada, where government controls keep prices lower. The measure still needs approval from the Senate.

``Congress has been pushing and pushing and pushing,'' said Billy Shawn, chief executive of thecanadiandrugstore.com, which received a letter from Pfizer. ``The drug companies are throwing down the gauntlet and saying `We're not going to let you change the way we do business in our largest profit center.'''

Canadiandrugstore.com, a rival Canadian Internet pharmacy, charges $60.66 for 30 tablets of Pfizer's Lipitor cholesterol medicine, 43 percent less than the price on CVS Corp.'s retail Web site, according to the bill's proponents. Pfizer's Zoloft antidepressant costs 44 percent less in Canada than in the U.S.

``Effective immediately, Pfizer Canada Inc. has elected to supply you with Pfizer products directly and exclusively,'' Pfizer wrote in the letter, obtained by Bloomberg News.

Company officials confirmed sending the letter.

Direct Distribution

Pfizer has for years required that Canadian customers not export its products, said spokesman Nehl Horton. The company now will ship products directly to some Canadian pharmacies to limit how much of its medicine can be shipped back to the U.S., he said.

``This action is to take about 50 of the 7,200 pharmacies in Canada to a direct distribution,'' Horton said. ``Pharmacies that are engaged in this increased level of cross-border sales are potential avenues for counterfeiting and for medicines from third countries that are not appropriate.''

U.S. consumers spent about $700 million last year on Internet purchases of medications from other countries, according to a Jupitermedia Corp. survey. That's less than half of 1 percent of all U.S. drug sales.

Shares of Pfizer fell 5 cents to $32.45 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. They have risen 6.2 percent since the start of the year.

Last Updated: August 6, 2003 17:38 EDT

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  • Coroner calls for internet drug sales regulation -- Richard Girard, 22:16:01 08/06/03 Wed
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