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Canadian Pharmacy Drugs are Safe

Pfizer VP admits Canadian Meds are no different

Canadian Press - WINNIPEG A senior U.S. pharmaceutical executive has broken ranks with his employer and the industry and proclaimed that drugs purchased from Canadian-based Internet pharmacies are perfectly safe.

Dr. Peter Rost, a vice-president of marketing with Pfizer Inc. at its New Jersey headquarters, said European countries have been trading drugs for decades without any safety concerns and there shouldn't be any concerns with prescription drugs bought from Canada.

"Drugs from Canada are absolutely, positively safe," Dr. Rost said in a telephone interview with the Winnipeg Free Press from his New Jersey home on Thursday.

"What has been said [by Internet opponents] about Canadian drugs is, quite frankly, insulting, I would think, if I were a Canadian. Let's get real. It's exactly the same product that the same [pharmaceutical] companies are selling in Canada that they are selling in the U.S."

Dr. Rost said multinational pharmaceutical firms are using safety to disguise their real motive of protecting profits, adding it's only a matter of time before the U.S. public and the rest of the business community demand a stop to the price-gouging.

Dr. Rost's unusual candor was welcomed by the spokesman for the Canadian International Pharmacy Association.

David MacKay, the group's executive director, said it's ironic that Dr. Rost is a Pfizer employee, adding that firm has been the most aggressive among the pharmaceutical firms in its attempt to stop the flow of prescription medications from Canada to the United States.

Dr. Rost said he's been working in the pharmaceutical industry for 20 years, mostly in senior positions in Europe before moving to New Jersey to work for Pfizer in 2001.

He said it's common for large drug firms in northern Europe to import cheaper drugs made in southern European countries.

"I never, ever heard anyone, especially not the drug industry or any regulatory agencies, ever say anything or complain about safety or was I ever made aware of any safety problems when I was managing a region in Europe."

Despite outward appearances, Rost insists he wants to keep his job as vice president for endocrine care at Pfizer. He said he is speaking for himself, exercising what he calls his First Amendment rights to free speech. Thus far, he said he has not suffered any repercussions from his employer.

''I hope they will accept and appreciate diversity of opinion," he said.

Pfizer would not discuss whether it is contemplating action against Rost. ''Peter Rost's views on importation represent his personal opinions. It's clear that his personal views are not informed by the expertise of the FDA, Pfizer, law enforcement officials, or pharmacists," said spokesman Paul Fitzhenry.

The company has taken note that Rost is consistently identifying himself as a Pfizer executive in public appearances. ''He is clearly identifying himself as a Pfizer employee, while at the same time professing to express his own personal views, and that does represent a conflict," Fitzhenry said.

Asked for comment, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Washington lobbying arm for the industry, did not respond specifically to the defection of one of its own to pro-importation forces. PhRMA has repeatedly stated that importation exposes consumers to a higher degree of risk.

Importation legislation is stalled in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has said it is ''doubtful" a vote will be held on the issue before Election Day.

It is far from clear that Rost, a midlevel executive, can influence the outcome. He has a medical degree from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. He began a career in pharmaceutical advertising before moving to leadership positions in drug companies in Europe and the United States over the last 14 years. After he left Wyeth in 2001, he went to work for Pharmacia Corp., which was purchased by Pfizer in 2003. Rost said on his resume that he led a team that tripled sales of a growth hormone, Genotropin, from 2000 to 2003.

His experiences in Europe convinced him that importation from other Western countries can be done safely, he said. So-called ''parallel traders" in Southern Europe routinely ship to countries in the north, where prices are higher. The practice is commonly accepted as safe, Rost said.

Rost blasted drug companies for squeezing wholesale supply to countries where Americans without prescription coverage are ordering at steep discounts in defiance of federal law and the FDA. He did not mention Pfizer by name, but the company that writes Rost's paycheck is the highest-profile company cracking down on Canadian wholesalers suspected of supplying the unauthorized American market.

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