Federal health minister vows to bring down ‘unacceptably high’ drug costs
OTTAWA — Health Minister Jane Philpott pledged action Tuesday to bring down “unacceptably high drug costs” as she announced consultations on a suite of proposed regulatory changes related to a drug prices board designed to protect consumers.
The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board — first created 30 years ago to ensure companies do not use monopolies to charge excessive costs — is now limited in its ability to protect consumers from high drug prices, Philpott said during lunchtime remarks hosted by the Economic Club of Canada. “These consultations will help better equip the board to protect Canadians from excessive drug prices,” she said.
The review board benchmarks Canadian prices against seven other countries, Philpott said, noting the countries used in the comparisons have some of the highest prices in the world, including the United States, where patented drugs cost twice as much as in Canada.
“If a new drug does not offer real health improvements, or is only slightly more effective than an existing treatment, is it fair for that drug to cost two or three times as much?” she asked.
It is the first time in more than 20 years the regulations will be substantially updated, Philpott added, noting the online consultations will run until June 28.
Steve Morgan, professor at the University of British’s Columbia School of Population and Public Health, said the consultation period is short, indicating the minister is making it clear she wants to see reforms right away.
“If the outcome of that process is a set of regulations that come up with a creative way to make sure that there is at least a minimum protection ... and the Canadian healthcare system is being protected against price gouging, then we’ll be in a good position,” Morgan said in an interview.