National Post

Ottawa seizing Mexican cancer drug
National Post

Cancer patients desperate enough to order cheaper, unlicensed versions of the drug thalidomide from Mexico now face another challenge to getting treatment: Federal authorities have reportedly begun seizing supplies of the life-extending medicine at the border.

« Health Canada is stopping every single box of thalidomide, » said an official with a Mexican company that makes the pills, who asked not to be named. « Patients are starting to die because of this. »

Patient advocates said they had also heard reports that Health Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency have instituted a crackdown on shipments of thalidomide from Mexico and other developing countries.

Health Canada officials would not comment directly on whether they had stepped up seizures, but said their policy has always been to bar unsanctioned imports of such drugs into the country.

The development has nevertheless heightened calls on provincial governments to reimburse the steep costs of the one permitted brand of thalidomide and a similar, newer drug, both of which can add years to the lives of people with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer.