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Health minister vows to protect Canadian drug supply from U.S. bill 

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:00 p.m., January 24, 2007]

Health Minister Tony Clement (left) with Prime Minister Stephen Harper..

OTTAWA  — Canada's health minister vowed Thursday to protect Canada's pharmaceutical drug supply from being siphoned off from U.S. demand.   

Speaking after a Tory caucus meeting on Parliament Hill, Health Minister Tony Clement expressed concern, but not panic, about a bill recently introduced in the Democratic controlled U.S. Congress. 

"My goal as a health minister is to make sure there is security of supply for Canadians that's what I care about," Clement said. 

Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress introduced a bill that has bi-partisan support allowing pharmacists and wholesalers to purchase certain prescription drugs from Canada and a handful of other countries. 

The bill is designed to allow American consumers get around paying higher U.S. drug prices. 
 
The Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2007 was introduced in the Senate by Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan and Republican Olympia Snowe. A companion bill was also introduced in the House of Representatives. 

The bill has raised concerns in Canada from a coalition of pharmacists groups who argue that it will create a flood of Canadian brand-name drugs being reimported to the U.S. and threatening Canada's drug supply. 
 
"We have an obligation to make sure there is supply available to Canadians that's how I'm examining the ever-changing political situation in the United States," Clement said of the bill. "Who knows how that bill will be amended? Who knows what will come out on the other end? Whether the president will veto the bill? These are all issues for the future."

The health minister said while he is concerned about the bill "as long as I'm convinced that we have the tools available to deal with that issue then all is fine. If I feel that we don't have the tools available then we'll make sure that we do." 

In 2005, an SES Research poll found that 84 per cent of Canadians agreed or somewhat agreed with the federal government taking action before the U.S. passed similar legislation. 

U.S. President George W. Bush has already vowed to veto a similar bill passed by the House that would the government to negotiate drug prices with drug companies. 

Bush has said that competition is already reducing prices for seniors and creating an environment that encourages the development of new drugs.

The U.S. pharmaceutical industry was among the largest donors to Bush's 2004 re-election bid. 

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