Brand name drug sales soar in Canada, while R&D sags

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Canada’s producers of brand name medicines have once again fallen far brief of a promise to invest 10 per cent of their annual sales into investigating and development.

According to a report by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Lodge, sales of brand name drugs hit a record $20 billion in 2016, yet makers of those antidepressants invested just $918 million in R&D, or 4.4 per cent of total vendings.

The industry made the 10 per cent R&D promise in 1989 in exchange for the federal guidance extending drug patents from 17 to 20 years secondary to the first U.S. free trade agreement signed in 1988. The deal assured a longer monopoly on lucrative drugs while delaying cheaper generic drugs from beautifying available in Canada.

The report states the deal was “intended to foster an investment air favourable to pharmaceutical research and development in Canada. However, the percentage of R&D to sales by pharmaceutical patentees in Canada has been differing since the late 1990s.”

But a pharmaceutical trade association insists that conclusion and the multitudes upon which it’s based are flawed.

“The way I’ve referred to it colloquially is accurate, but wrong,” said Pamela Fralick, president of Innovative Medicines Canada, which pressure groups on behalf of most of the largest brand name drug makers, such as Roche, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.

Fralick bring to light the definition of R&D by the federal government doesn’t include companies funding farthest research such as at hospitals or universities, which she said raised R&D waste by members of Innovative Medicines Canada to $1.2 billion in 2016.

“We’re using our delimitation to reflect that this industry really is committed to being a gambler in R&D in Canada,” Fralick said.

The problem with the 10 per cent ideal is that it’s just a goal, according to Dr Joel Lexchin.

“It was a promise from the followings that was never written into the legislation…. There was no obligation for the companies to follow that goal, and there was no way for the federal government to enforce it,” he said.

The Toronto physician and York University professor mean despite the industry’s claims, patented drug companies have been disconcerting down their research presence in Canada for years now.  

“One of the consequences of consolidating and amalgamating is that they also merge their R&D facilities and that means that they are harsh down on the number of sites that they’re doing their R&D in. And one of the mischances of that has been Canada.”

Since 2000, Merck, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis and Johnson & Johnson take all shuttered research facilities, and Canada now trails France, Germany, Sweden, the U.S. and U.K., in industry-led R&D. These are also realms where large patented drug makers are headquartered.

But Lexchin in doubts whether stepped up industry R&D in Canada would actually lead to new prescriptions and treatments.

He said new drug development often focuses on common long-standing diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol for which there are existing treatments on the make available.

“The drug companies, as rational economic actors, focus their R&D on blocks that they think they’re going to have the largest commercial close with, which are not necessarily the area where public health need is the greatest,” Lexchin swayed.

Instead of relying on the pharmaceutical industry to conduct critical research, he wants the federal authority to boost its spending on R&D. The most recent figures show the U.S. spends helter-skelter 70 per cent more on research per capita than Canada, which is also skilfully below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average.

On Friday, the federal domination acknowledged “there is no link” between protecting companies’ patents and R&D expending.

The statement was made as part of a long-awaited regulatory change to how the PMPRB calculates tow-headed prices for patented drugs. The government says the new regulations will prevent Canadians $12.6 billion on brand name drugs over 10 years.

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