Minister of Health Patty Hajdu speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. Hajdu is delaying the first big overhaul of Canada's patented medicines pricing system for a third time. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canada delays new drug-pricing regulations until January 2022

Canada delays new drug-pricing regulations until January 2022

OTTAWA — The first big overhaul of Canada’s patented medicines pricing regime in three decades is being delayed for the third time.

The Patented Medicine Pricing Review Board is supposed to ensure prices for new pharmaceuticals in Canada aren’t excessive.

In 2019, the government published new regulations to guide the board’s work, adjusting the countries used for comparison purposes and introducing new economic conditions to help determine whether proposed prices are unreasonable.

The government said then that the changes could cut drug prices by $13 billion over the next decade and they were set to take effect July 1, 2020. Health Minister Patty Hajdu agreed to delay them six months because of the pandemic and then days before the Jan. 1 implementation date, she delayed them again until July 1, 2021. On Tuesday, she delayed them further until January 2022.

“In consideration of the impact of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing efforts related to the pandemic response, this delay will provide industry with additional time to adapt to the new reporting obligations,” reads a statement provided by Health Canada Tuesday.

“The Government of Canada remains committed to improving the affordability, accessibility and appropriate use of medicines for Canadians, and it is not anticipated that further delaying these amendments will be needed.”

Multiple industry executives have warned the House of Commons health committee over the last year that the regulations add an unreasonable administrative burden, leave companies mired in uncertainty about what they can charge for new medicines, and discourage investment in Canada.

Innovative Medicines Canada, a pharmaceutical industry group, welcomed the latest delay if it means the government is open to starting over.

“This news is good news for Canadians, as the current reforms will have a significant negative impact on access to potentially life-saving medication,” said IMC president Pamela Fralick.

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner said the delay is a sign the government recognizes the regulations will hurt Canada.

“It makes no sense that the Liberals want to escalate tensions with pharmaceutical companies in the midst of a global pandemic, when Canadians still need access to vaccines and therapeutics,” she said.