Ten Canadian pharmacies have applied for licenses from the Nevada Board of Pharmacy to sell prescription drugs, which state officials herald as a more affordable market for cash-strapped Nevadans.
Nevada officials should have the state-approved Canadian pharmacies listed on the Governor's Office for Consumer Health Assistance Web site (customerservice.doit.state.nv.us/linda/cha/) by late September, the board of pharmacy's general counsel said Monday.
Eight states, several cities and the District of Columbia operate similar programs in opposition to the Bush administration's stance that prescription drug imports can be unsafe. Nevada's law making it easier for consumers to buy prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies went into effect July 1.
"Any pharmacy that is not licensed and regulated with the (Nevada) board of pharmacy is technically in violation of the law," said Louis Ling, general counsel for the pharmacy board.
"This is the legal way of ordering prescription drugs from Canada. Our process will insure that the pharmacies in Canada are operating safely and lawfully."
By the Friday application deadline, five pharmacies in Manitoba, two in Alberta, two in Vancouver and one in British Columbia had returned the applications, which Ling said was more than expected.
The board will review and approve applications at its Sept. 7 and 8 meetings. Ling and a Reno pharmacy inspector will travel to Canada and inspect the approved pharmacies the week of Sept. 19.
"If they pass inspection they will be allowed to serve the public in Nevada," he said.
Dawn Polley, president and owner of Granville Pharmacy LTD of Vancouver, said exporting prescription drugs is an important and growing part of her business. Her pharmacy, which also has a Web site, has operated for three years.
She said her business is listed as a certified pharmacy in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, San Francisco and has applied for certification in Nevada.
Polley said her pharmacy is listed on those states' Web sites and it hasn't generated a huge amount of business "because they don't put a lot of publicity into these Web sites. So a lot of people aren't familiar with them, or that they're even there."
As Nevada inches closer to licensing the Canadian pharmacies, one local pharmacist doubts it will ever be finalized because of restrictions that might come from the other side of the border.
"I don't have any concerns because I don't think it's going to fly," said pharmacist Mike Hautekeet, who owns Mike's Pharmacy on Curry Street. "I think the Canadians are going to be the ones to stop it. It's a feeling. I think the Canadians are not going to allow the cheap drugs to come into the U.S."
The drug exportation issue is a hot button, because the Canadian minister of health is concerned about protecting Canada's domestic drug supply and its method of price calculation, Ling said.
Drug manufacturers responded to pharmacies that export to America by clamping down on the amount of drugs they send to Canada.
"As these drugs are being diverted from the Canadian user to the U.S. user, the price in Canada may go up, hurting Canadian users," Ling said.
Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh most recently talked about limits on bulk exports of drugs, but the new Nevada law deals with purchases by individuals.
Ling said no one is sure what the health minister may do.
Polley said she isn't worried about the minister's decision.
"I think the minister seems to be looking toward banning bulk sales and he has voiced support for our industry," she said.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
Those that have applied for prescription drug licenses in Nevada:
Canada US Pharmacy Inc. of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Elmwood Pharmacy of Edmonton, Alberta
Granville Pharmacy LTD of Vancouver, British Columbia
Hometown Pharmacy Inc. of Homewood, Manitoba
K-tel Drug Mart of Canada of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Lexiem Pharmacy of Winnipeg, Manitoba
OneWorld Rx of Richmond, British Columbia
Total Care Pharmacy LTD of Calgary, Alberta
Universal Drugstore LTD of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Another Vancouver pharmacy, name was not available Monday