Canada to delay drug price reforms by six months, cites pandemic

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A pharmacist counts prescription drugs at the at the CentreTown Pharmacy in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

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OTTAWA, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Canada has delayed the implementation of new rules designed to cut drug prices to allow the government to focus on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Thursday.

The new rules, meant to reduce patented drug prices that are among the highest in the world, will come into effect on July 1 next year rather than Jan. 1, Duclos said. The pharmaceutical industry has long fought the new regime.

"To bring these amendments into force, in the context of a global pandemic, requires preparedness and consultation. A delay also allows the government to further engage stakeholders," Duclos said in a statement.

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The new regulations would change which countries Canada's Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) uses as a benchmark to set some maximum drug prices. The PMPRB will drop the United States and Switzerland from its comparisons and add nations with lower prices.

The regulations will also empower the PMPRB to consider the cost-effectiveness of new drugs, and their potential impact on government budgets.

"The government remains firmly committed to improving the access to, and affordability of, quality medicines for Canadians," said Duclos.

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Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler

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