“After five years, myriad policy proposals and many hundreds of hours of consultation, it would appear the pharmaceutical industry is simply not amenable to any measures that would further constrain its ability to sell patented medicines in Canada at free market prices,” said the document, titled “Memorandum to the Minister of Health.”
Dated Dec. 8, 2021, the memo, obtained by the NDP through access-to-information and viewed by Blacklock’s Reporter, told Duclos that the pharmaceutical sector is not supportive of Ottawa’s plan to “advance reforms” over prescription drug prices.
“The hard reality is even wealthy countries like the U.S. and Canada find themselves at an increasing disadvantage in their dealings with a sophisticated, transnational trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry when seeking to advance reforms that put long term sustainability over short term profitability,” wrote Melanie Bourassa Forcier, acting chair of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPR) at the time.
PushbackIn 2017, the federal government announced changes to federal rules in an attempt to bring prices down. However, amendments related to “the new price regulatory factors” did not come into force last July due to pushback by the pharmaceutical sector and a series of court challenges between late 2020 and early 2022, as reported by The Globe and Mail.
The pharmaceutical industry has argued that the price control will cut revenue so much that it won’t be profitable to bring new drugs to Canada. Pharmacies have taken a similar position, saying if the prices get too low, it will affect their revenue, a major part of which consists of a percentage markup on drug price, plus a dispensing fee.
In November 2022, Duclos wrote to PMPR and suggested the process be paused to give drug companies, patient groups, provincial ministers, and himself more time to understand the changes.
$11 BillionIn March 2022, the NDP signed a Supply and Confidence Agreement with the Liberals to back the minority government till June 2025 with one of the conditions being that the government pass a bill on universal public drug insurance coverage by the end of 2023. No bill has been introduced to date.
He reiterated that his letter to PMPR was to allow stakeholders to “fully understand the short- and long-term impacts” of the proposed new guidelines.