Canada health minister on Tuesday announced proposed measures that aim to reign in what she called the “unacceptably high drug costs” in the country.
The proposed changes to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) will be the first update in 20 years to the body which ensures the prices of patented medicines sold in Canada are not excessive, according to Federal health Minster Dr. Jane Philpott.
The changes to existing drug pricing regulations proposed by Philpott touch a broad range of areas including the provincial drug price negotiation process, prescription practices, the drug review process, and faster patient access to new medicines.
“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?” Philpott asked during the Economic Club of Canada event in Ottawa where she made the announcement of the proposed changes which she said are aimed at “improving affordability, accessibility and appropriate use of drugs in Canada.”
The PMPRB was created some 30 years ago.It is an independent, quasi-judicial administrative agency with a regulatory mandate to protect Canadian consumers from excessively priced patented drugs. The board sets the maximum price at which a patented drug can be sold based on the price of the drug in Canada; the price of other drugs in the same therapeutic class in Canada; the price of the drug and other drugs in the same therapeutic class in other countries; and changes in the rate of inflation.
The changes proposed by Philpott include:
- The Patent Act Regulations that define the process for regulating the wholesale prices for patented drugs being sold in Canada will be reviewed including a consultation process to find a list of countries that is more appropriate for Canada to consider in determining excessive drug prices.
- The federal government will work with provinces and territories to enhance the joint public drug negotiation process, the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA), with an announcement of details in the coming weeks.
- The federal government will look to reduce unnecessary prescribing and a seamless e-prescription system will be developed.
- The federal government will enhance the use of real-world evidence (RWE) to determine the value of medicines to Canadians.
- The federal government will continue to consult with the provinces and territories to develop a common drug formulary that will ensure equitable access and better prices for drugs across Canada.
- The federal government will help to reduce unnecessary barriers to innovation by streamlining the drug review process at the federal level.
The new regulations will be in place by the end of 2018.
“The PMPRB welcomes the Minister of Health’s action to strengthen and modernize its pricing framework to reduce the cost of prescription drugs,” said Dr. Mitchell Levine, vice-chairperson of the PMPRB, “We look forward to the outcome of this consultation process.”
Philpott’s announcement was welcomed by representatives of organizations advocating for disease sufferers.
“Patients requiring effective but high cost drugs for life threatening conditions, including oncology, certainly support steps to moderate prices and ensure access to all people in Canada who need them,” said Louise Binder, health policy consultant with Save Your Skin Foundation, a national patient-led advocacy group for skin cancer patients, “As always, the devil is in the details. We are pleased that the Minister committed to meaningful patient engagement at every step in the process.”
Binder is also a co-founding member of the Drug Pricing Policy Working Groups.
“Myeloma patients support this direction. We trust that savings will go directly back into the health care system to enhance further innovation in healthcare and access to necessary treatments,” said Martine Elias, the director of access, advocacy and community relations at Myeloma Canada and a member of the Drug Pricing Policy Working Groups. “We also want to ensure that research and innovation of new drugs continue in Canada.”