Feds ac­cused of cav­ing with drug ‘con­ces­sion’


OT­TAWA — The Trudeau Lib­er­als are be­ing ac­cused of cav­ing in to pres­sure from the high-pow­ered phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try in Wash­ing­ton at the ex­pense of Cana­dian pa­tients suf­fer­ing de­bil­i­tat­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions and those strug­gling to foot the cost of their pricey med­i­ca­tions.

The pro­posed United States-mex­ico-canada Agree­ment ex­tends a so-called “mar­ket ex­clu­siv­ity” pe­riod for high-class bi­o­logic drugs to 10 years from eight — a move that ap­plies to medicines in­creas­ingly used as a life­line for pa­tients with chronic con­di­tions in­clud­ing rheuma­toid arthri­tis, Crohn’s dis­ease and can­cer.

The mea­sure means generic pro­duc­ers would have to wait an ad­di­tional two years to pro­duce sim­i­lar drugs at lower costs to con­sumers, as they won’t have ac­cess to cru­cial data needed to do so.

Mem­bers of the med­i­cal world and op­po­si­tion MPS are call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to do ev­ery­thing it can to soften the im­pacts of the de­ci­sion, fear­ing it will have sweep­ing rip­ple ef­fects.

Al­low­ing drug com­pa­nies to keep valu­able data to them­selves for an ex­tra two years is a step away from an af­ford­able na­tional phar­ma­care plan, said Cana­dian Generic Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Jim Keon, who sees the move as a di­rect re­ac­tion to pres­sure from the U.S.

“This mea­sure was put into this agree­ment at the de­mand of the United States gov­ern­ment, at the de­mand of the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try in the United States, at the de­mand of the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal lobby in Wash­ing­ton,” he said.

“This is a step in the wrong di­rec­tion.”

In June, the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment un­veiled a six-mem­ber ad­vi­sory coun­cil to con­sult Cana­di­ans and in­form plans for a na­tional phar­ma­care pro­gram.

Ex­tend­ing the length of time a drug-maker can shield in­for­ma­tion is a mis­take that will mean higher drug costs for prov­inces, ter­ri­to­ries, em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees who cost-share drug plans, added NDP health critic Don Davies.

“The bot­tom line is when Cana­di­ans are al­ready pay­ing among the high­est prices for drugs in the world and we al­ready know that one in four Cana­di­ans is skip­ping med­i­ca­tion due to cost, why would the Lib­er­als agree in a trade agree­ment to a mea­sure that is go­ing to make drug costs more ex­pen­sive?” he said. “That’s what they have done.”

Con­ser­va­tive health critic Mar­i­lyn Gladu said drug com­pa­nies must be able to re­coup re­search dol­lars they put into pro­duc­ing med­i­ca­tions.

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