Canada may be losing appeal as destination for new medicines

by Leo Almazora29 Jun 2020

Canadians’ are getting less access to new drugs as a result of updated guidelines to control the prices of patented medicines, according to a new report published by Life Sciences Ontario (LSO).

The study conducted by IQVIA Inc., a global leader in health data and analytics, examined the rate of commercialization of new medicines in Canada and other leading global jurisdictions over the past 20 years from 2000 to 2019.

Over that period, researchers found that out of 25 countries, Canada ranked fourth with respect to time to launch – that is, it was the fourth fastest in launching new active substances – with a median time of 1.2 years from global launch of a new active substance to local country launch.

It also took ninth place globally based on the proportion of new medicines launched globally. IQVIA found that out of 516 new medicines introduced globally from 2000 to 2019, 66% went on to launch in the Canadian market.

“Up until 2018, Canada was gradually getting faster and [seeing] more extensive access to therapies relative to other countries,” LSO said in a statement.

But the research showed that new drug launches declined in Canada in 2019, with just 13 new drug launches during that year compared to 22 in 2018. That came despite a trend of increasing numbers of new active substances launched.

The results appeared to vindicate previous concerns raised by Canadian and global life sciences leaders, who in a survey conducted by LSO this year said that the federal government’s new price guidelines for patented medicines in Canada would have negative consequences, including delays in medicine launches within the country.

“This new research shows that Canadian patients have been benefiting over recent years from new treatments being made available in Canada almost as quickly as anywhere else in the world but that we are throwing away this advantage in a short-sighted attempt to lower drug prices at unreasonably low levels,” said LSO President and CEO Jason Field. “And we are doing this at a critical time where Canadians need access to new medicines and vaccines, especially to combat COVID-19.”