Big Pharma Sues Ottawa Over Costs Of Patented Medicines

A Canadian pharmaceutical lobby group and 16 of its members have filed a lawsuit against the federal government in Ottawa over how it regulates the costs of patented medicines.

Health Canada announced long-awaited amendments last month to patented medicine regulations, which include allowing the arm's-length Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) to consider whether the price of a drug reflects the value it has for patients.

The list of countries that the review board uses to compare prices and gauge its own levels will no longer include the United States and Switzerland, both of which are home to some of the highest drug prices in the world.

The lawsuit, filed in the Federal Court of Canada, is being led by Innovative Medicines Canada.

The lobby group's President, Pamela Fralick, said that it's a necessary step for the industry because the regulations will have a significant impact on patient access to medicines and on researching and developing prescription drugs and medical devices. Fralick said the industry tried unsuccessfully to work with Health Canada for nearly two years to find policy alternatives.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the federal government wants to move forward with a national pharmacare program, and the first step in that work is to reduce the price of prescription medications.

"I'm not surprised by the legal challenge that has been launched. We certainly recognize that pharmaceutical companies don't want to lose any profits," Minister Petitpas Taylor told CBC News over the weekend.

Companies that have joined the lawsuit include Merck, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Inc., Bayer AG, Boehringer Ingelheim and Servier Inc.