Pharma companies launching challenge to PMPRB changes

Five major pharmaceutical companies have filed a constitutional challenge to the federal government’s incoming changes to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board.

The complaint was filed in Quebec Superior Court by the Canadian subsidiaries of Merck & Co., Janssen Inc., Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim Ltd. and Servier Inc.

In statements provided to Benefits Canada, the companies argued the federal government doesn’t have the constitutional authority to regulate the pricing of medicines or manage health-care systems — those issues are within provincial jurisdiction, which have policies or regulations in place for managing the costs of patented drugs.

Read: Feds announce final changes to Canadian drug pricing regulations

“The changes recently made by the federal government . . . will slow and limit Canadians’ access to new breakthrough medicines,” said Merck Canada.

Bayer added it believes the changes “will have a damaging and long-lasting impact on jobs across the sector, along with implications for our economy.”

The federal government’s changes, announced in early August and slated to come into effect July 1, 2020, will update Canada’s reference countries for comparing its prices internationally. They’ll remove Switzerland and the U.S. — the only two countries in the world with higher patented drug prices than Canada — and add Australia, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain, which all have lower drug prices.

Read: What will PMPRB drug pricing changes mean for plan sponsors?

The changes will also provide the PMPRB with the market price of medicines in Canada, which include any potential rebates, rather than the inflated sticker price. This will give the board the ability to assess whether a drug price is reasonable when setting its ceiling. The board will also be able to consider whether the drug’s price reflects its value to patients.

Health Canada expects the changes will save Canadians around $13.2 billion over 10 years. In an email to Benefits Canada, it said it would “not be appropriate . . . to comment as the matter is before the courts.”

Innovative Medicines Canada, which represents the pharmaceutical industry, also declined to comment on the challenge.

Read: How should the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board be changed?