Every day, millions of Canadians rely on some form of prescription drugs to stay healthy, cure illnesses and manage ongoing medical conditions. Unfortunately, Canadians pay more for prescription drugs than most countries in the world. The cost of patented drugs is higher in Canada than anywhere in the world, except for the United States and Switzerland.
People in Canada actually pay almost 25 per cent more for their drugs than most other developed countries worldwide, even if it's the same medication.
In fact, Health Canada reports that in 2018, more than half a million Canadians had to go without food or heating in order to be able to afford their prescriptions. Fortunately, the government wants to do something about it.
Today, the Government of Canada announced that they are making the final amendments to the Patented Medicines Regulations, which is a step towards, “delivering on its commitment to lower drug prices for all Canadians.” According to the news release, this will be the most significant reform to the regulation since 1987.
The Government of Canada and the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) intends to protect Canadians from over the top drug prices and make patented medicines more affordable. They plan on doing this by making a number of changes that should ensure prices in Canada are fair and accessible.
According to Health Canada, the first step is changing the “basket” of countries that Canada is compared to when drug prices are set. So costs will be “judged against countries that are similar to Canada in terms of population, economy and health care.”
The results from the first change should then allow the PMPRB to recognize the actual cost of drugs in Canada, rather than just the “sticker” price. From here, the board should be able to come up with a more reasonable ‘price ceiling.’
Lastly, the PMPRB will also take a look at whether the cost of particular drugs accurately reflect the value it has for those who use it. According to Health Canada, “This suite of measures, which the Government is implementing to lay the groundwork for National Pharmacare, is the foundation of a system that enables all Canadians to get and afford the medicines they need.”
The Minister of Health, Ginnette Petitpas Taylor, spoke of the changes. “Today, we take the biggest step to lower drug prices in a generation. Building on the progress we've already made towards lower drug prices, these bold reforms will both make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible for all Canadians.”
She continued, “Saving an estimated $13 billion dollars in the next decade, and laying the foundation for National Pharmacare."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the announcement on Twitter, writing, “No Canadian should have to choose between paying for prescriptions and putting food on the table. Our government is taking steps to lower the price of prescription drugs by working towards a national pharmacare program.”