ST. PAUL, Minn. – Objections to the importation of prescription drugs from Canada have come from not only the American pharmaceutical industry but others concerned about the safety of drugs from other nations.
Now, the Canadian Minister of Health says the practice of shipping drugs south should stop.
Canadian pharmacies supply an estimated 2 million Americans with their medicine, but not for much longer if Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh (search) has his way.
"These are unethical, unprofessional transactions at their inception, and no state can turn a blind eye to that," Dosanjh said.
Dosanjh says cross-border prescription sales threaten the supply of medicines intended for Canadians. Later this month, Canada's government may consider changes to outlaw the practice.
David MacKay, head of the pro-export Canadian International Pharmacists Association (search ), said the Canadian government was pressed to shut down the online and mail-order pharmacies, currently a $700-million-a-year enterprise.
"The Bush administration has put pressure on the Canadian government to relent and actually perform the execution of this industry within Canada," he said.
President Bush and Prime Minister Paul Martin (search) spoke about the issue during their November summit, but both governments deny the president pushed for action against Canadian prescription shipments.
"Absolutely not. Any such assertion is nonsense," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said.
Some Canadian pharmacists support their health minister when he says Canada cannot go on being America's drug store forever.
"He needs to step forward and say our drugs in Canada are for Canadians, and we will keep it that way," said Lothar Dueck, president of the Manitoba Pharmacy Coalition (search).
But if Canada shuts down its prescription pipelines, some American patients will be left searching for lower-priced medicines. Minnesota is one of a handful of states that helps its residents buy prescriptions north of the border through the Internet. The state's Republican governor said other nations are being considered as suppliers.
"We will explore, in fact, are exploring options in Europe, through Scandinavian countries or places like the United Kingdom," Gov. Tim Pawlenty (search) said.
Pawlenty said he hopes stirrings in Canada send a message to Washington, D.C., that Americans need cheaper prescription drug access at home.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Steve Brown.