- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

NEW YORK (Dow Jones/AP) — Merck & Co. has decided to stop supplying its drugs to Canadian pharmacies that export the medicines to patients in the United States, the company confirmed yesterday.

Three times since June 2002 Merck had reminded all of its Canadian customers that the products it manufactures for use in Canada aren’t meant for sale in the United States.

Drugs are generally cheaper in Canada because the government sets price controls, while the U.S. government does not.

On Jan. 14, Merck sent the companies that had violated these terms a letter informing them that it wouldn’t be supplying them with products until they demonstrated to Merck’s Canadian unit, Merck Frosst, that they are willing to comply, the company said.

It is not clear how many pharmacies received Merck’s letter.

“There should be no need for patients to put themselves at risk by purchasing potentially counterfeit medicines over the Internet when free Merck medicines are available from Merck’s patient assistance program and the prices of Merck medicines under the Medicare-endorsed discount cards are competitive with Internet prices,” Merck spokesman Tony Plohoros said.

In February, Pfizer Inc. was the first to cut off its drugs to several Canadian Internet pharmacies selling to the United States. A handful of other drug makers have since limited the supply of their drugs to Canadian Internet pharmacies.

Merck, which is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., produces a variety of pharmaceuticals, including several hypertension and cholesterol-fighting drugs, as well as the baldness treatment Propecia and asthma drug Singular. It reported 2003 sales of $22.5 billion.

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