Fed­eral health min­is­ter vows to bring down ‘un­ac­cept­ably high’ drug costs

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - KRISTY KIRKUP

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.

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