February 24th, 2023
NDP calls for probe of Health Minister’s interference in PMPRB
OTTAWA — NDP Health Critic Don Davies is calling for an investigation into Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos’ direct involvement in shelving reforms intended to save Canadians billions of dollars on prescription medicines. A new report reveals that, following numerous exchanges with pharmaceutical giants, the minister personally asked the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board (PMPRB), Canada’s independent and arms-length regulator, to suspend reforms that would lower the price of medication for Canadians.
Davies says that the minister’s intervention to advance the profits of big pharma hurts Canadians in need of affordable medication and must be investigated immediately.
“This report is very disturbing, and the minister’s behaviour is contrary to his fundamental duty to protect Canadians’ health,” said Davies. “The minister used his powers to kill reforms that would lower the price of medicine for patients. We know what happens when medicine prices are too high: many patients can’t fill their prescriptions, get sicker and sometimes die.
“For a Minister of Health to intervene in an independent regulator’s mandate is highly questionable; but to put the profits of industry over the welfare of Canadian patients is completely unacceptable.”
Validating the serious concerns of interference by the minister, a member of the independent regulator, the PMPRB resigned this week. In his resignation letter, Matthew Herder asserted that the minister’s interference has prevented the regulator from fulfilling its mandate of moderating medicine prices for Canadians. Mr. Herder wrote that the minister’s request for suspending coming reforms was “largely indistinguishable in form and substance from industry talking points”, and that “the government fundamentally undermined the Board’s independence and credibility”.
The NDP wants an immediate investigation at the Health Committee into the minister’s conduct. Questions include what industry pressures were brought to bear and whether COVID-19 vaccines were used as a bargaining lever in killing PMPRB reforms.
“The Liberals have repeatedly promised to make medicine more affordable, but their actions don’t support this. We need to get to the bottom of this serious compromise of Canadians’ health,” Davies concluded.