Canada’s health minister denies interfering in agency’s efforts to lower drug costs – National |

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Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says he has not exercised any undue political pressure on the independent federal agency that regulates the price of patented drugs on its efforts to lower medicine costs.

NDP health critic Don Davies is accusing the minister of halting the implementation of a new rule intended to lower the cost of drugs at the behest of drug companies that have resisted the change.

The new regulation came into force in July and would see the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board compare Canadian drug prices to those in a wider range of similar countries.

The agency was in the process of consulting on the finer details associated with the rule in November when Duclos wrote to its acting chair and suggested the consultation process be paused to give drug companies, patient groups, provincial ministers and himself more time to understand the changes.

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One of the agency’s board members resigned shortly afterward, saying Duclos undermined the board’s independence.

Duclos says that while he was required by law to offer his opinion on the consultation process, the decision to pause enforcement of the new rule was ultimately up to the agency.

Davies says the minister is standing with a pharmaceutical industry that has stiffly opposed the new rules, rather than Canadians who need access to affordable drugs.

Canada has third-highest drug prices in the world, behind only the United States and Switzerland.

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