Gilead Sciences Refuses To Sell Antiretroviral Drug Tenofovir to Canada at Reduced Cost Because of Reimportation Concerns
California-based Gilead Sciences has refused to sell its antiretroviral drug tenofovir, which is sold in the United States as Viread, to Canada at a reduced price, citing concerns that the drug could be imported back into the United States by Internet pharmacies, Canada's National Post reports. Health Canada approved tenofovir in March, and Gilead has distributed the drug free-of-charge to 1,600 Canadian HIV/AIDS patients who have developed resistance to other available medications or who experience side effects from other drugs, according to the Post. However, company representatives earlier this year told Canadian doctors at an international AIDS conference in Paris that Gilead would not make the drug more widely because of the "threat" that it could be reimported into the United States by online pharmacies at a lower price. "Everybody gets the same price or they don't get [the drug]," a company representative said, according to Dr. Michael Silverman, an infectious disease specialist with Lakeridge Health, the Post reports. Gilead spokesperson Amy Flood said that the company is negotiating with the Patented Medicine Price Review Board in Canada to determine an appropriate price for tenofovir, according to the Post. Flood said that Gilead would like to sell the drug at the same price in all industrialized countries, instead of creating a "broad range" of prices similar to other drugs.
Drugs bought from Canada can cost up to 80% less than in the United States, and reimportation has developed into a $1 billion industry, according to the Post. Some drug makers have said that they will limit drug distribution in Canada to decrease reimportation, and Health Canada has said that the country could face a drug shortage. Michelle Fontaine of the Coalition for Manitoba Pharmacy said that the current cross-border trade in drugs is "the tip of the iceberg," according to the Post. Silverman said that Canadians will face higher prices and less drug availability if reimportation continues. "I don't think [reimportation] is in the average Canadian's interest," Silverman said, adding, "It's shortsighted and it's going to wreck a good thing" (Blackwell, National Post, 11/4).