February 18, 2019 / 9:16 PM / a year ago

Mexico's ruling party lawmakers urge capping drug prices

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Lawmakers from Mexico’s ruling party plan to send a bill to Congress that would set maximum drug prices, aiming to improve accessibility for poor patients and bring costs in line with cheaper countries in the region.

The proposal for new pharmaceutical regulations, which MORENA lawmakers announced on Sunday, says it seeks to ensure “affordable prices that are in touch with the economic reality” of Mexico. A source at the party said the bill will be introduced this week.

Pharmaceutical companies in the United States and Canada are similarly under pressure from lawmakers to control rising drug costs.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December vowing to fight poverty and inequality, has urged pharmaceutical companies to lower their prices or risk losing out on government business to competitors.

His MORENA party has launched several initiatives to reduce costs for consumers, with mixed results. Proposed changes to Mexico’s pension system were praised by ratings agency Fitch, and millions of poor families could benefit from a government push to cut fees on remittances.

However, a proposal to cut banking commissions concerned investors and triggered a stocks sell-off. Lopez Obrador later said he would not immediately change the banking laws.

The country’s economy and health ministries would work together to set maximum prices once a year or as necessary, the proposal says, without providing further detail.

The proposal cites a study by Peruvian investigative journalism outlet Ojo Publico. The study says prices, adjusted for purchasing power, are much higher in Mexico than in other Latin American countries for certain drugs, including those that treat diabetes, cancer and HIV.

Mexico’s national pharmaceutical association declined to comment.

Reporting by Diego Ore and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Dan Grebler

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