"Deeply disappointing": Liberals yet again delay regulation to cut drug costs

For a third time the Trudeau government has delayed a regulation to cut drug costs. A Health Canada official says this time the delay is necessary because of COVID-19, but the opposition NDP critic calls it "deeply disappointing."

The Canadian Press and CNC files

The federal Liberal government is once again delaying the implementation of long-awaited changes to Canada's drug-pricing regime by another six months, a move called "deeply disappointing" by the opposition NDP health critic.

A spokesman for Health Canada says amendments to the patented medicine regulations, which were set to take effect Jan. 1, will now be delayed until July 1, 2021. Most previously the new pricing regulations were to be implemented on July 1, 2020. Previously the regulations were to come into force on Jan 1, 2020.

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.

In a statement, NDP Health Critic Don Davies said he was "deeply disappointed" by the delay, adding the regulation change was first proposed in 2015 and are estimated to save Canadians $13 billion over 10 years, according to Health Canada.

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

Drug manufacturers 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.

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