Groups kick off opposing campaigns in drug debate

ST. PAUL, MN, and RICHMOND, VA: Dueling campaigns on the opposite side of the drug-importation debate kicked off this week. On Monday, the Minnesota Senior Federation announced it would lead a multistate effort against Pfizer. The "Pfix Pfizer" campaign calls for a boycott of the company's over-the-counter products, such as antacid Rolaids.

ST. PAUL, MN, and RICHMOND, VA: Dueling campaigns on the opposite side of the drug-importation debate kicked off this week. On Monday, the Minnesota Senior Federation announced it would lead a multistate effort against Pfizer. The "Pfix Pfizer" campaign calls for a boycott of the company's over-the-counter products, such as antacid Rolaids.

The next day, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Virginia Pharmacists Association launched a public information campaign to warn about the dangers of counterfeit drugs. The effort will distribute more than 1.5 million pieces of consumer educational materials to 1,500 pharmacies in Virginia.

The Minnesota Senior Federation said it was making the effort because of Pfizer's opposition to the reimportation of US-made drugs from Canada at cheaper prices than they are sold here. The group said the "10 Days of Outrage" would end with stockholder presentations at Pfizer's annual meeting in St. Louis on Thursday.

Senior organizations from more than 10 other states are also involved, said Peter Wyckoff, executive director of the metropolitan region of the Minnesota group.

"We do not know of one incident of contaminated or counterfeit drugs coming from any licensed Canadian pharmacy," Wyckoff said.

Paul Fitzhenry, senior director of media relations for Pfizer, said CEO Hank McKinnell recently appeared on C-Span and took calls from concerned seniors and displayed counterfeit medicines.

"We have a very active program of engagement and dialogue" on the issue, he added.

Fitzhenry said Pfizer's position is that "legalizing the importation of medicines from Canada is not the best solution to enhancing access to medicines for Americans."

After the Tuesday press conference in Virginia, Dennis Stanley, president of the state pharmacists' group, and Thomas McGinnis, director of pharmacy affairs in the FDA's Office of Policy, went to an Ukrop supermarket in Richmond for a photo-op of them giving educational materials to customers.

James Pickral, director of policy at the Virginia Pharmacists Association, said the campaign was aimed not just at Canadian reimportation but "drugs from unregulated and unlicensed sources," such as websites.

Earlier this month, healthcare researcher NOP World Health said that American pharmacists estimate that they have lost 10% of their business to Canadian pharmacies.

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