Québec’s Healthcare Exceptionalism


The government of the French-speaking Canadian province of Québec stands out for undertaking healthcare reforms while appreciating the need to join hands with industry when it comes to the promotion of health innovation.

“Quebec has the most aggressive approach of any province in this country [for generics pricing]”

Dr. Gaétan Barrette, Minister of Health and Social Services

Outspoken minister of health and social services, Dr. Gaétan Barrette outlines, “Since 2014, Quebec has been trying to transform the system significantly.” One of his first initiatives was to merge a number of health institutions within the province into a more integrated organizational structure. In addition, “Quebec has the most aggressive approach of any province in this country [for generics pricing]”, having pushed through legislation in 2016 allowing for a tendering process for generics procurement”. This prompted the industry association to agree to a 40 percent reduction in generics prices, or “an annual cost reduction of over CAD 1.5 billion over the next five years.”


At the same time, he acknowledges that “There are very complex dynamics at work here. The sustainability of the healthcare system is indirectly linked to the sustainability of industry.” Thus, the province announced in May 2017 an ambitious five-year Life Sciences Strategy to propel Montréal into the top five life sciences clusters by 2027, with CAD 205 million (USD 160.6 million) in funding invested over the next five years and the target to attract CAD 4 billion in private investments by 2022.

This initiative has been widely lauded by many industry members, including AstraZeneca. President and CEO Dybka praises, “The Québec government has laid out a very progressive plan, with finance, health, and economy, science and innovation ministries coming together to grow and promote the entire life sciences ecosystem in the province. We need more of such initiatives across the country.”


In the interest to drive this, he adds, “I am presently the co-chair of Life Sciences Ontario and also sit on an expert committee advising the Ontario government on the creation of a provincial life sciences strategy, much like the one Québec just announced in May. Canadian governments could play a much bigger role, firstly in terms of appreciating the value of the existing life sciences ecosystem, and secondly, by investing to make this environment even bigger and better.”

Supporting this is the provincial HTA body, INESSS (Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services), whose president, Luc Boileau, highlights, “the concept of ‘added value’ is embedded in our mandate. We are piloting POETIS, where we assess the product’s efficacy across the entire lifecycle of the disease to understand the overall value it can bring to the healthcare system and patient.” Boileau adds, “the distinction between medicines and medical devices is blurring with the advent of innovations like cell therapies, gene therapies and nanotechnology. We need to review our processes to be able to take these ground-breaking developments.”

Québec minister of economy, science and innovation, Dominique Anglade sends a strong final message, “I would like to exhort the private sector to invest more money in R&D. We are here to match any industry contributions and provide a lever to drive economic development – but industry needs to partner with us.”

Writer: Karen Xi

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