December 11th, 2019

// Pharmacare with no new medicines

Pharmacare with no new medicines

Meeting with pricing officials shows that government's true goal is to slash prices so low that no new medicines will come to Canada

OTTAWA, Dec. 10, 2019 /CNW/ - The changes to how the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board (PMPRB) calculates maximum prices allowed for such treatments in Canada, approved in the last days of the previous majority Liberal government, are "even worse than feared," stated patient representatives after a four-hour meeting with PMPRB officials in Ottawa on December 10.

"We can only conclude that this strategy is tied to the publicly funded pharmacare proposals, also supported by the previous government," said Durhane Wong-Rieger, President & CEO of the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders. "It will be a drug plan that includes no new drugs and perhaps eliminates some existing ones."  

Science is delivering on new medicines that really do cure cancer, restore sight to the blind, prevent bleeds, and stop the progression of crippling diseases.  And while every country is considering how to pay for these breakthroughs in treatment, only Canada is introducing draconian measures designed to drop list prices by more than 20% and, more importantly, actual prices by 40% to 90%.  

If every developed country took the same approach as Canada, research and development of new medicines would literally grind to a halt as investors directed their funds elsewhere.  However, because Canada represents only 2% of the global drug market and we are the only country imposing such drastic price cuts, the net result will be that companies will simply choose not to bring the new medicines to Canada.

While the federal government dismisses these concerns as "fear mongering", in fact, preliminary survey results released by Life Sciences Ontario ( lends substance to these fears, with some pharmaceutical companies already stopping plans to launch new medicines in Canada and one company indicating it may be forced to withdraw a first-line therapy because the new pricing formula will place the Canadian price far below those of other developed countries.

Among those who will lose out are Canadians with rare disorders, many who are waiting for their first-ever treatment. Toronto lawyer Chris MacLeod, who is living with cystic fibrosis, is hoping the next therapy will come to Canada. "If this pricing scheme had been in place five years ago when the first drug for CF was available, I would probably not be alive today. Now we are hearing that the company making the next therapy is reconsidering whether it will launch in Canada. Even a delay of two years may be too long. For patients like me, having access as soon as possible to a new medicine is a matter of life or death."

Other groups are also supporting this demand. "Canadians with gastrointestinal diseases and disorders have relied on new medications to help improve their quality of life greatly, and even save lives, over the past 15 years, but we know there are many newer and better treatments on the horizon," said Gail Attara, President and CEO of the Gastrointestinal Society ( "We can't afford to have Canadians miss out on access to new therapies that could vastly improve their quality of life, but this will certainly happen unless these harsh pricing regulations are changed." 

Wong-Rieger recalls that "both Gail and I were members of the Steering Committee that sat in closed-door sessions over a period of nine months, supposedly providing advice to the PMPRB on the proposed regulations but it was clear that they were not open to other options that would manage prices AND support introduction of new medicines. We were so frustrated that we each wrote letters to the Prime Minister, calling for his intervention but the government was seemingly willing to sacrifice new therapies for Canadian patients in order to support a publicly funded drug plan. The consultation was a total sham." 


About the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders (CORD)

CORD is Canada's national network for organizations representing all those with rare disorders. CORD provides a strong common voice to advocate for health policy and a healthcare system that works for those with rare disorders. CORD works with governments, researchers, clinicians and industry to promote research, diagnosis, treatment and services for all rare disorders in Canada. For more information on CORD, visit:

SOURCE Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders (CORD)


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