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Federal government proposes changes designed to drop cost of patented drugs

A sign for a pharmacy and walk-in health clinic shown in Oakville, Ont., Thursday, Oct.13, 2016. The federal government says it is proposing changes to patented medicine regulations aimed at dropping drug prices, representing the first major update in more than two decades.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Richard Buchan
December 02, 2017 - 7:00 AM

OTTAWA - The federal government says it is trying to drive down drug prices by proposing changes to the regulations governing patented medicines in the first major update to those rules in more than two decades.

The potential changes include an expanded list of countries Canada can use when comparing patented drug prices, Health Canada says.

They also include new factors the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board can take into consideration when assessing whether a drug is overpriced.

The review board has previously benchmarked Canadian prices against seven other countries — nations with some of the highest prices in the world, including the United States, where patented drugs cost twice as much. The new list will have 12 countries, which the department said will offer a more balanced look at market prices.

The board, a quasi-judicial body operating at arm's length from the Health Department, is designed to provide a vehicle for informing consumers about patented medicine prices.

The government's suggested changes were published online today in the Canada Gazette — a publication considered to be the government's newspaper of record.

Only the U.S. and Mexico have higher patented medicine prices than Canada, when compared with the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the posting said.

The posting says the proposed amendments could save consumers an estimated $12.6 billion over 10 years by reducing prices for patented medicines.

"Lower prices would alleviate financial pressures on public and private insurers and improve affordable access for Canadians paying out-of-pocket," the department said in the gazette posting.

One of the changes put forward includes a requirement that companies report all cost reductions to allow the review board to consider this information when setting price ceilings.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the government is committed to making drugs more affordable and the new regulations will help that effort.

Last spring, then-health minister Jane Philpott pledged to bring down "unacceptably high drug costs" when she announced consultations on proposed regulatory changes.

In a speech to the Economic Club of Canada, Philpott acknowledged the price review board was limited in its ability to protect consumers from high drug prices.

New regulations will mean the board can be modernized to give it more relevant and effective tools to shield consumers from excessive prices, Health Canada said Friday.

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News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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