Novartis chief warns eased drug import rules may not help patients

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Novartis AG chief executive Daniel Vasella said he "wouldn't be surprised" if U.S. regulators ease rules limiting the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada, but cautioned it could damage the industry financially and wouldn't be much help to patients, according to a report in The Boston Globe on Nov. 18.
During a business luncheon in Boston on Nov. 17, Vasella acknowledged political pressure is mounting to change the rules, but cited examples from Europe where trading companies have learned to capture profits based on the price differences rather than passing them on to customers.
"These companies are known as parallel importers," buying drugs in one country and distributing them in another. Vasella said because of them patients save just 10 percent of the total price difference between the anti-fungal drug Lamisil sold in Germany and the same drug sold in Spain.
"I bet you the day that parallel imports are legalized from Canada to the U.S., and I wouldn't be    surprised if that would be the case, there will be some talented importers," he said. "I'm not sure that the   deal patients will get will be so much better than what they get today."
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