Doctors in Canada and US call for ‘fundamental reform’ on prescription drug prices

Joel Lexchin, one of the co-authors of the report and an emergency medicine doctor at the University Health Network in Toronto, said that one of the major issues they were trying to address was drugs that were priced well over affordable rates.

“There are a number of drugs on the Canadian market priced at over $50,000 per person per year,” he said. “What they tend to do these days as much as they’re allowed, is to price drugs on the basis of desperation.”

He referred to certain medications for Hepatitis C, macular degeneration, and certain forms of cancer which were priced at several thousand per month for patients. He said that the reason they were priced so high was not due to the cost of developing the drugs.

“Making money isn’t necessarily compatible with the development and marketing of drugs that are most needed in terms of public health issues,” he said.

The report had several recommendations for reducing the costs of drugs, primarily to establish universal coverage and “compulsory licensing” on essential medications, which would allow generic manufacturers to produce drugs at a reasonable cost, if a lower price could not be negotiated with the original manufacturer. The report also called for public funding for the development and production of essential drugs, which would allow Canada to set more affordable prices for those drugs.

Vancouver Kingsway MP Don Davies, NDP critic for health and the vice-Chair for federal Standing Committee on Health, said that the Committee’s recent April report did not look specifically into generic patents or publicly funded drug development, but they did examine how a single-payer system could lower drug costs.

“You can’t just plug holes in the system.,” said Davies. “We need a systemic overhaul in the form of a single-payer care — where the main source of savings is bulk buying.”

Davies said that bulk buying, which is when large entity uses a high number of orders to get a better deal on prescriptions from a manufacturer, could save nearly 40 per cent on drug costs, based on the savings of other countries that moved to bulk buying systems.

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