Federal government moving toward national drug plan

The federal government has announced the final amendments to the Patented Medicines Regulations. The most significant reforms to the regulations since their introduction in 1987, these amendments will give the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) the tools to protect Canadians from excessive prices and make patented medicines more affordable, said a news release from Health Canada on August 9, 2019.

Millions of Canadians rely on prescription drugs to stay healthy, manage chronic conditions and cure disease—yet they pay some of the highest prices in the world, said the release.

Last year, more than a million Canadians had to give up essentials like food and heat to afford the medications they need. That’s why the Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to lower drug prices for all Canadians.

Firstly, these amendments will change the “basket” of countries we compare ourselves to when setting drug prices, so that prices here are judged against countries that actually look like Canada in terms of population, economy and approach to health care.

Secondly, these changes will provide the PMPRB with the actual market price of medicines in Canada—rather than inflated list or “sticker” price—to more accurately assess whether a price is reasonable when setting a price ceiling.

Finally, they will let the PMPRB consider whether the price of a drug actually reflects the value it has for patients.

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.


“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—saving them an estimated $13 billion dollars in the next decade—and lay the foundation for National Pharmacare.”- Ginette Petitpas Taylor Minister of Health

Quick Facts

  • Canadians pay among the highest patented drug prices in the world, after only the United States and Switzerland. Canadians pay close to 25% more than the median price that people in other developed countries pay for the same drugs.
  • These amendments are expected to save Canadians approximately $13.2 billion over 10 years on patented drug costs.
  • In its final report, the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare made clear that strengthening the Patented Medicines Regulationsis absolutely essential to lowering drug prices and moving towards National Pharmacare.
  • The amended Patented Medicines Regulationswill be published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on August 21, 2019. In the meantime, Canadians may request a copy from Health Canada at PMR-Consultations-RMB@hc-sc.gc.ca.
  • These changes are the product of three years of extensive consultations, study and review, including retaining former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge to assess the methodology.
  • The PMPRB is a federal agency created in 1987 under the Patent Actto ensure that Canadians are protected and that pharmaceutical companies do not abuse their patent rights by charging excessive prices.
  • The Patent Actand the Patented Medicines Regulations set out the factors and information to be considered by the PMPRB when determining whether the price of a patented medicine is excessive.
  • When the PMPRB determines that a patented medicine is priced excessively, it can order the patent holder to reduce the price at which the medicine is sold and to offset the amount of excess revenues it has received.
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