In Canada, prices of pharmaceutical products are set by the government and as a result cost less than in the US.
The difference in price can be as much as 50% for similar products in the US.
America is the only member of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with a free market for prescription drugs, which has the effect of making them more expensive.
Rising health insurance costs
Consumer groups in America , as well as some employers who provide health insurance to their employees, complain more and more about the situation.
Insurance companies raise their premiums, and the number of Americans without medical coverage increases each year as a result.
In 2001, more than 40 million people in the US had no medical insurance cover, the US Census Bureau said.
“The Internet makes it possible for Canadian pharmacies to serve the whole American market online, bringing in one billion Canadian dollars (740 million) in sales”
Andy Troszok, spokesman of the International Association of Canadian Pharmacists
Still, the emergence of the internet has meant that millions of Americans can now access cheap Canadian drugs.
“The Internet makes it possible for Canadian pharmacies to serve the whole American market online, bringing in one billion Canadian dollars (740 million) in sales,” explains Andy Troszok, spokesman of the International Association of Canadian Pharmacists, AFP reported.
“The only thing American consumers have to do is send their prescription by electronic mail,” he adds.
But the legality of such commerce is disputed.
“As pharmacist, I am not authorised to honour prescriptions that come from the United States,” says Jean-Yves Julien, president of the Quebec Order of Pharmacists.
Canadian pharmacists often ask local doctors to co-sign the prescriptions and thus remain within the law.
On the US side, the Food and Drug Administration insists that drug reimportation is illegal, and pharmaceutical companies try to put an end to it.
However, some US politicians would like to benefit from the situation.
Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, for example, wants to buy Canadian drugs for 200,000 state employees, which save the midwestern state hundreds of millions of dollars.
Last week, Blagojevich invited the governors of the remaining 49 states to join him in his battle to make it possible.
In July, the US House of Representatives adopted a bill which would allow the sale of Canadian drugs in the United States.
The measure still needs Senate approval and a signature from President George Bush.
Some in Canada are worried and predict that US drugmakers, angry at the erosion of their margins, could simply hike prices.