Canada Wants Bulk Drug Export Ban

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Canada can't continue to be a cheap "drug store for the United States" and intends to ban bulk export of prescription drugs when supplies are low at home, the health minister said Wednesday.

Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh said he must ensure Canadians continue to have access to an adequate supply of safe and affordable prescription drugs, and he would launch initiatives, including legislative and regulatory changes, to protect the supply and safety of Canadian drugs.

Dosanjh, in an ambiguous statement at a news conference in Ottawa, said he intended to introduce legislation when the House of Commons reconvenes this fall that would allow for the temporary ban of bulk exports when supplies are running low at home.

He also intends to establish a drug supply network within the federal ministry Health Canada and work with provinces and pharmaceutical companies to provide more comprehensive data on Canada's prescription drug supply.

"We are in fact looking at a host of issues," he said. "The legislation would definitely mean a ban on large-scale drug exports to the United States, particularly when there's a shortage here."

Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world, so U.S. lawmakers are pushing to legalize the importation of prescription drugs over the Internet from Canada. Four bills are pending in Congress but have met with opposition from the pharmaceutical lobby and from the Food and Drug Administration.

If any one of the four bills passes, it could mean millions more Americans ordering medicine from Canada, and that could mean a shortage for Canadian consumers, CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski reports.

Part of the proposed legislation would limit bulk purchases, something the Governor of Illionois wants to take advantage of for his voters.

"What the Canadian government is doing at the behest of the Bush administration, on behalf of the big pharmaceutical companies, is essentially further trying to restrict the marketplace and gouge American consumers," Gov. Rod Blagojevish told Brzezinski.