In the 2017 budget released last week, the federal government said it’s aiming to lower pharmaceutical prices and improve access to prescription medications through significant investments in a variety of health-care agencies.

The government has committed $140.3 million over five years, starting in 2017-2018, to Health Canada, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board and the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. After the five-year period, the agencies will receive $18.2 million per year in ongoing funding. 

The Canadian Institute for Health Information will receive $53 million over five years to address gaps in health data and improve reporting on health system performance. After the five years, the CIHI will receive $15 million a year.

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“The [insurance] industry is really pleased with the government’s commitment to taking aim at lowering the drug prices and improving the access for Canadians by investing that money over the next five years,” says Karen Voin, assistant vice-president of group benefits and anti-fraud at the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. 

She notes that “it’s early days” and little information is available as to how the funding will be used. “But regardless of that, we do see this being really encouraging. The interest is there and the funding is going to those [that] have the ability to do something with it, to help regulate the drug prices in Canada,” she says.

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“The PMPRB has a significant role to play in helping to realize [Ottawa’s commitment to prescription drug access and lower prices] and recently consulted our stakeholders and the public on what would be required to improve our performance in ensuring pharmaceutical patent holders do not charge excessive prices for their drug products,” a spokesperson for the agency told Benefits Canada in an email.

“Following a thorough analysis of the feedback submitted during this consultation process, we will be moving forward in the coming months with changes to strengthen our drug pricing guidelines to better protect Canadians from high-cost patented drugs.”

PMPRB received written submissions from dozens of stakeholders, including pharmaceutical companies, disease-based non-profits, academics and insurers. The next step is a public policy hearing during which stakeholders can make presentations in front of the PMPRB in support of their written submissions. The third and final step is publication of proposed changes for comment, as well as multi-stakeholder forums on specific issues.

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

Canada Health Infoway will receive $300 million over five years, starting in 2017-18, to expand e-prescribing and virtual care initiatives, support the continued adoption and use of electronic medical records, help patients to access their own health records electronically and better link electronic health record systems to improve access by all providers and institutions.

And the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement will receive $51 million over three years, starting in 2019-20, with $17 million per year ongoing, to continue to accelerate innovations in all provinces and territories.

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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