TORONTO, Sept. 24, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Two new studies published in the journal Canadian Health Policy, conclude that the Canadian federal government must act swiftly and preemptively to stop the catastrophic diversion of Canada’s prescription drug supply to Americans.  The findings are important because recent policy changes in the United States have proposed legal pathways to allow the commercial scale importation of prescription drugs that were originally intended to be sold in Canada to Canadian patients. Both studies argue that the changes represent a clear and present danger to Canada’s drug supply.

In an update of two previous studies published in 2010 and 2018, Marvin D Shepherd, PhD (Emeritus Professor, College of Pharmacy, University of Texas, Austin) examined the potential impact from U.S. importation on Canada’s aggregate drug supply. One analysis showed that if only 20% of U.S. demand was sourced from Canada, the total Canadian brand name drug supply would be exhausted in 281 days.

Building on Shepherd’s research, Brett J Skinner, PhD (CEO, Canadian Health Policy Institute) used detailed data on a sample of 46 branded medicines that are likely to be targets for purchase by American states, wholesalers and pharmacists under the importation guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The purpose of the analysis was to estimate the urgency of the threat that U.S. importation poses for the Canadian drug supply and to examine how this may affect specific patient populations differently. The results showed that the Canadian drug supply cannot sustain increased demand from full-scale U.S. importation.  Most of the drugs studied would have their total Canadian supply exhausted in less than 3 months. Half the molecules would have been exhausted in just over 1 month and many would have lasted less than 2 weeks. The average number of days until total exhaustion of the Canadian supply observed for each of the 46 drugs was 43 days.

Both studies conclude that the potentially rapid depletion of the Canadian drug supply from U.S. importation puts the onus on Canada’s federal government to act pre-emptively to prevent events from moving faster than the legislative or regulatory process can respond.

CHPI will provide complimentary digital copies of the referenced studies upon media request.


  • Shepherd M. New pathways for U.S. importation threaten Canadian prescription drug supply. Canadian Health Policy, September 2019.
  • Skinner, Brett J. Potential impact of U.S. demand on the Canadian supply of 46 prescription drugs. Canadian Health Policy, September 2019.


Launched in 2012, Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI) is a private-sector research enterprise and the publisher of Canadian Health Policy (CHP) journal, which features the work of CHPI affiliated researchers and external independent authors. The institute is funded by sales of articles and subscriptions to readers. We set articles free (or at reduced prices) if the research and publishing costs are recovered through sponsorship. Our published research is subject to formal review and critique by CHP editorial staff, CHPI affiliated researchers and independent external experts in health economics and health policy.