- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt discussed prescription drug imports with Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh in their first meeting since Mr. Leavitt was appointed.

Mr. Dosanjh, who has called on Canada to halt prescription drug flow into the United States, said the two also talked about global health security initiatives, pandemic health issues and prescription drug safety.

“It was a very positive meeting, and Secretary Leavitt is looking forward to working with the Canadian government and his counterpart, the health minister,” said HHS spokesman Bill Pierce.

It was the first meeting for the two officials in their current roles. Mr. Dosanjh said he met with Mr. Leavitt in 2000, when Mr. Dosanjh was the prime minister of British Columbia and Mr. Leavitt was the governor of Utah.

Mr. Dosanjh said he raised the issue of Canada prescription drug importation with Mr. Leavitt.

“There was no pressure from [Mr. Leavitt] on dealing with this issue,” he said at a press conference yesterday after the meeting.

For Canada, the amount of prescription drugs traveling to the United States has become a “medical ethics” concern, Mr. Dosanjh said.

The concern is over Canadian doctors who sign foreign prescriptions without examining the patients. Although there is no law against signing foreign prescriptions without seeing the patients, physician regulatory boards in Canada have ethics rules against the practice.

The “countersigning” allows U.S. patients to enter Canada and return with up to a three-month supply of prescription drugs, which generally have a lower price than in the United States.

Mr. Dosanjh has warned that prescription drug importation is cutting into Canada’s ability to adequately supply medications to its citizens.

The Bush administration has strongly pushed for a reduction in drug importation. Federal agency officials have said they cannot guarantee the safety of prescription drugs coming in from Canada and other countries.

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