Canadian government officials announced that it will block the importation of prescription drugs in situations where a domestic shortage could arise, in response to a move by the US to allow Americans to bring in medicines from across the northern border.
The policy took came into effect on Friday just before the US ruling, which drug suppliers have said could cause internal shortages in Canada, according to Reuters.
“Certain drugs intended for the Canadian market are prohibited from being distributed for consumption outside of Canada if that sale would cause or worsen a drug shortage,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement, the news outlet said.
He said that companies will now be required to "provide information to assess existing or potential shortages" on request, and "within 24 hours if there is a serious or imminent health risk".
“Canada is a small market, representing 2 percent of global drug sales, that sources 68 percent of its drugs internationally. The need for vigilance in maintaining the national drug supply continues,” Hadju said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged his support to other nations earlier this year but would prioritise domestic access to drugs.
A large US pharmaceutical lobbying organisation is also taking legal action to bring about an end to the rule, accusing the law of violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, Endpoints News reports.
“It is particularly disturbing that the administration is punting the responsibility for demonstrating safety and cost savings to state governments despite the clear requirement under federal law that the Secretary of HHS must certify that imported drugs both pose no additional risk to public safety and will lead to significant savings for the American consumer,” said James Stansel, general counsel for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
The lobbying group claims that the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar breached Section 804 of the law by maintaining importation powers in the hands of state governments.
Drug manufacturers have been the subject of widespread criticism from US politicians - including President Trump - regarding the high cost of medicines and price hikes for older drugs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Presumptive President-elect Joe Biden has also attacked the drug prices and has suggested importing products to lower costs.