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Date Posted: 22:12:40 12/21/03 Sun
Author: Plug ugly
Subject: Re: Web drugstores boom in Canada
In reply to: Bennie 's message, "Canada: New Hampshire to put Canadian drugs mere click away for its residents" on 08:48:56 12/12/03 Fri


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By Cyril T. Zaneski
Tribune Newspapers: The Baltimore Sun
Published December 21, 2003

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Encased by iron bars and hidden behind frosted windows of what looks like an abandoned storefront, one of Canada's most successful Internet pharmacies is quietly thriving on a street known for a different kind of drug traffic.

Like a speakeasy from the U.S. Prohibition era, the company, CanadaMeds.com, ushers employees and visitors into the building through a secret side entrance.




"We don't want the neighbors to get any ideas about what's behind these walls," CEO Mike Hicks said.

But tens of thousands of American seniors have found the company. Every day, they send about 1,000 prescriptions to this storefront, which is among more than 175 other Canadian Internet pharmacies that are booming beyond their owners' wildest expectations.

Enticed by the pharmacies' bargain prices for prescription drugs, the budget-conscious seniors are defying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban on importing prescription drugs. They are expected to spend about $900 million this year on drugs from Canada.

Manitoba's Internet pharmacy business grew out of the success in late 2000 of a 20-something pharmacist who got rich selling Nicorette gum on eBay at half the U.S. price. Today, the province is gaining a reputation for cultivating Internet pharmacy companies, which are drawn by affordable real estate, low wages and a supportive provincial government.

"There are 65 of these pharmacies here that I know of, but that number may have already changed since this morning," said Ron Guse, registrar of the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association, which regulates pharmacies.

"It's a phenomenally lucrative business, and it is growing all across Canada."

The new pharmacies are gobbling up corners of suburban office parks and building shiny new offices in tiny farm towns. Some, like CanadaMeds, have expanded into several vacant storefronts, including that of a traditional drugstore that has moved across the street.

Canada's largest Internet pharmacy, Mediplan Health, which sprouted in March 2001 from the Nicorette gum sales, says it serves 140,000 U.S. customers from a former farm machine shop.

Girding for continued growth, Mediplan opened an 18,000-square-foot office across from a chicken farm south of Winnipeg. The new operation, which employs 12 people now, is expected to have 200 by early next year, said Suzy Funk, Mediplan's assistant director of operations.

"We expect we're going to be doing 2,000 prescriptions a day here by the end of January," Funk said.

The Internet pharmacies' expectations for continued growth come despite President Bush's signing this month of legislation that will add a prescription drug benefit to the Medicare program in 2006.

Few in Canada expect the small Medicare overhaul to cut into their business.

"The only thing that will end the Internet pharmacy industry in Canada is if U.S. pharmacy prices come into line," said David MacKay, executive director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, which represents about 25 Internet drugstores.

"But how long is it going to take before Congress decides to leverage its purchasing power, put price pressure into place or impose price controls as this country does?

"Right now, it's the pharmaceutical industry leveraging U.S. drug prices."

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  • Canada's Internet pharmacies thriving on business from U.S. -- Mike, 22:14:36 12/21/03 Sun
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