Putting Canadian Patients’ Health First

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Brian Hilberdink, President of Novo Nordisk Canada, calls for collaboration between government and industry to ensure that Canadian patients get swift access to the best treatments. 

 

As a Canadian who spent several years working globally for a biopharmaceutical company, I saw firsthand how pricing and investment decisions can be made to better support healthcare innovation so that patients, payers, and all stakeholders can thrive and prosper.

 

 

Canada is one of the first countries in the world where new medicines are introduced. This enviable position – known as “Tier 1 status” among innovative biopharmaceutical companies – means Canadians get earlier access to medical advances than citizens in many other nations.

How did Canada achieve this status?

 

First, approximately half of our population is covered by private insurance. This facilitates earlier adoption of new medicines, which translates to revenues for the innovative companies that develop them, which in turn, enables significant rebates to government drug plans as a result of Canada’s price negotiation process.*

 

Interrelated to this is the investment by the global biopharmaceutical industry in Canada’s life sciences sector in areas such as clinical trials and partnerships with public research organizations. Along with the economic footprint from the Canadian operations of the world’s most innovative biopharmaceutical companies, these investments provide major economic contributions to Canada, currently valued at over $19 billion per year1.

 

However, Canada’s Tier 1 status is in jeopardy. The Canadian government is currently updating regulations for its pricing body – the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) – under the premise of making medicines more affordable. This, despite PMPRB’s recently published annual report, which concluded that drug prices have actually decreased by -0.3% in 2017 as compared to 20162.

 

This one policy change may negatively impact Canada’s Tier 1 status by delaying, or worse, potentially eliminating Canadians’ access to new innovative medicines. We don’t want to become a country where treatments are made available to patients based solely on which treatments are cheapest while knowing that better medications are being offered in other countries. We’ve seen this happen in Australia and New Zealand, where cost drives decisions and new medicines are often passed over altogether.

 

The biopharmaceutical industry has a key role to play in developing solutions that optimize healthcare and decrease inequities in access to drugs for all Canadians.

 

As a Canadian who spent several years working globally for a biopharmaceutical company, I saw firsthand how pricing and investment decisions can be made to better support healthcare innovation so that patients, payers, and all stakeholders can thrive and prosper. For example, ten years ago Denmark improved its healthcare delivery and patient outcomes by organizing health centers of excellence. At the same time, a concerted effort to nurture trusted partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry was made. With these initiatives, Denmark became one of the leading nations in healthcare delivery4.

 

If our industry – a significant contributor to Canada’s life sciences sector – cannot remain economically viable, innovative pharmaceutical companies will be forced to reduce R&D and other investments such as clinical trials, that come along with bringing new therapies to Canada.

 

And finally, there’s a real economic impact that is being ignored. A December 2017 Ernst & Young study forecast that the proposed PMPRB amendments would result in a 30 percent revenue loss across the entire biopharmaceutical industry3. If this happens, our industry will have no choice but to make significant business adjustments that could jeopardize jobs, of which there are currently over 30,000 across the country.

 

We know all is not perfect in Canada’s healthcare system. We know there are some Canadians who don’t have coverage for their medicines, have unaffordable deductibles or co-pays, or are unable to access government-funded programs.

 

The biopharmaceutical industry has a key role to play in developing solutions that optimize healthcare and decrease inequities in access to drugs for all Canadians. It is my hope that the Canadian government considers us valued partners to do so. By working together, we can put Canadians and their health first.

 

* The Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) negotiates prices for publicly covered drugs through which considerable rebates are provided back to the government.

 

Sources:

  1. Ernst & Young, Innovative Medicines Canada Data Analytics and Members’ Economic Footprint and Impact in Canada, 2017
  2. PMPRB’s annual report 
  3. Ernst & Young, Innovative Medicines Canada Data Analytics and Members’ Economic Footprint and Impact in Canada, 2017
  4. eHealth in Denmark, Hans Erik Henriksen, CEO Healthcare 

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