Pharma fights to push Canadian trade deal
As free trade talks between Canada and the European Union near a conclusion, the pharmaceutical industry is waging an intense publicity campaign to convince Canadians that its efforts – researching medicines and providing jobs – are worth the extended patent protections that are being sought in the agreement.
The industry trade group this morning released three new reports containing “the first new data set detailing the economic and social impact of Canada’s innovative pharmaceutical industry in five years,” according to Rx&D, which adds that drugmakers contributed at least $3 billion to the Canadian economy and supports some 46,000 jobs (see here).
Since January 2011, drugmakers invested nearly $1.5 billion into research infrastructure in Canada and last year, product donations to patients through compassionate use and special access programs increased by 47 percent, to $133 million. Meanwhile, more than 3,000 clinical trials are underway in Canada, which represents an investment of roughly $750 million.
The push – which involved specially commissioned reports written by KPMG, RiskAnalytica and SECOR – comes shortly after the Canadian Press reported details of an industry study that found the EU proposal would add an average life of 2.66 years to a typical drug patent, and increase Canadian drug costs by between $795 million and $1.95 billion annually.
The previously undisclosed report was undertaken by Health Canada and Industry Canada, partly in response to comments from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade that previously maintained complaints the free trade deal would increase health care costs was a ‘myth,’ according to the paper.
The wide range of projections is large because the government analysts is uncertain about which drugs would receive patents in the future, and had to make some broad assumptions, the paper wrote. The point, though, is that extra costs would result from patients taking brand-name drugs for extended periods, instead of lower-cost generics.
Last week, a spokesman for the Canadian Minister would only say that “our government has always sought to strike a balance between promoting innovation and job creation and ensuring that Canadians continue to have access to the affordable drugs they need. our government will only sign an agreement if it is in the best interests of Canadians.”
In a joint statement issued earlier this month, the trade groups for Canadian and European generic drugmakers lambasted the proposals made by the European Commission during the trade talks and, specifically, that would go beyond existing World Trade Organization requirements for intellectual property protection.
The proposals “would restrict competition in Canada from cost-saving generic drugs through the further extension of market protection mechanisms,” they said. “The proposals would also be harmful to Canada’s life sciences sector as the generic pharmaceutical industry operates most of Canada’s pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, and exports to more than 115 developed and developing countries, including several EU-member states” (read this).
By Ed Silverman