January 18th, 2021

Health Canada delays drug-pricing reforms, citing COVID challenges for manufacturers

By The Canadian Press on January 7, 2021.

Prescription pills are shown in Toronto, Nov. 5, 2017. Health Canada says it's delaying the implementation of long-awaited changes to Canada's drug-pricing regime by another six months.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

Health Canada says it’s delaying the implementation of long-awaited changes to Canada’s drug-pricing regime by another six months.

A spokesman for the department says the amendments to patented medicine regulations, which were set to take effect Jan. 1, will now come into force on July 1.

Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge says the postponement is intended to give pharmaceutical manufacturers more time to adjust to new reporting requirements while dealing with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The overhaul is set to recalibrate how the arm’s-length Patented Medicine Prices Review Board calculates fair prices for patented medicines.

Drug manufacturers and patient advocates have balked at the plan, citing concerns that the regulations could stifle scientific innovation and reduce access to therapies for rare diseases.

Legault-Thivierge says federal and Quebec courts have upheld most of the amendments, but struck down key provisions that would require manufacturers to disclose third-party rebates, including deals with provincial drug programs.

He says the federal ruling is under appeal, and Ottawa is reviewing the Quebec decision while it determines its next steps.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2021.

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