Canadian Drug Companies Call for New Pricing Regulations to be Delayed Amid COVID-19

Almost three dozen Canadian pharmaceutical companies made a direct appeal to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month to delay the new drug pricing regulations for the third time.

The companies, including all four of the drugmakers behind the COVID-19 vaccines being used in Canada now, want more time, and less pandemic distraction, to try and make their case to the Liberals that the regulations will do more harm than good.

“We want to have a comprehensive discussion around the life sciences sector in Canada and how we can build up the resiliency to ensure that Canada is better positioned for the next pandemic,” said Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow in an interview with The Canadian Press. “But now is not the time.”

Pinnow is one of 34 drug company and industry association executives to sign a letter to Trudeau on May 18, asking that the new regulations not come into force on July 1 as planned.

The regulations will make major changes to how the Patented Medicine Pricing Review Board ensures drug prices for medications still under patent protection — and therefore without competition — aren’t excessive.

They adjust which countries are used for comparison price purposes, introduce new economic factors to help determine if a price is excessive and allow the PMPRB access to the negotiated price rebates drug companies make with provincial governments.

It’s estimated the changes could cut drug prices by $13 billion over the next 10 years, fulfilling the Liberal promise to make medicines more affordable to Canadians.

Developed over the last five years, the regulations were supposed to take effect last June but were delayed six months as Canada battled the first wave of COVID-19. Days before the Jan. 1 implementation, Health Minister Patty Hajdu agreed to delay them another six months.

Canadians pay among the highest prices for drugs in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The average price is about one-third of that paid in the United States, about the same as in Germany, slightly more than Japan and Italy, and 20 to 30 percent more than the United Kingdom and France.

Minister Hajdu’s spokeswoman said in a statement that the PMPRB reforms are “the most significant reforms in more than 30 years” and was delayed before only to ensure the industry had time to adjust.


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