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Eli Lilly to Limit Sales to Firms in Canada

October 20, 2003|From Associated Press

Eli Lilly & Co. has limited sales to Canadian pharmacies, joining other U.S. drug makers that are trying to prevent their medications from being reimported and sold to consumers in the United States.

The Indianapolis-based drug maker said in a letter sent to 24 Canadian drug wholesalers that it would limit sales of its drugs to amounts that Lilly estimates are sufficient to supply the Canadian market only.

"We think it's an appropriate step to take to protect the integrity of our products and the safety of our patients here in the U.S. and Canada," Lilly spokesman Rob Smith said.

Lilly officials have tracked a "steady increase" in cases of counterfeit and improperly stored Lilly products coming into the U.S. The company's move was based on recommendations from a Lilly task force formed two years ago to study the issue of drug imports from Canada, Smith said.

Starting immediately, if a Canadian wholesaler tries to order more Lilly product than Lilly's estimate of what is appropriate for Canadian use, "they will not be able to have it," Smith said.

Lilly's contracts with wholesalers in Canada do not allow exports out of Canada, he said.

Earlier this year, Pfizer Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Wyeth took similar steps in Canada to prevent reimports to the United States.

The drug makers are responding to increasing sales to U.S. consumers by more than 100 Canadian pharmacies. Some are set up to cater exclusively to the U.S. market by taking orders over the Internet, on the phone or by mail.

Government price controls make Canadian drugs as much as 50% cheaper than in the U.S.

Dave Robertson, president of, a Calgary-based pharmacy, said in a statement: "This latest move by Eli Lilly demonstrates that these multinational drug companies are working together to prevent U.S. seniors from obtaining safe and affordable medications from Canadian pharmacies. This move by Eli Lilly risks placing the companies' profits ahead of the serious health-care needs of U.S. patients."

Lilly runs two programs in the United States to sell its drugs at steeply discounted prices to the poor and low-income senior citizens. Those programs have served hundreds of thousands of people and offer "a much better alternative" to importing from Canada, Smith said.

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