Skip to content

Trump raises pharmaceutical drug pricing in NAFTA talks

The Council of Canadians has been highlighting the threat posed to winning pharmacare by so-called ‘free trade’ agreements.

A study by Joel Lexchin (York University) and Marc-André Gagnon (Carleton University) found that the extended patent provisions for pharmaceutical drugs under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) could cost between $850 million to $1.65 billion annually.

And Steve Morgan (University of British Columbia) and Ruth Lopert (George Washington University) have commented, “In its efforts to repeal Obamacare, the current U.S. administration is willing to drive up health care costs [and could] attempt to coerce Canada to do the same to Canadians by way of NAFTA provisions that would prevent implementation of an equitable and sustainable universal pharmacare system.”

Now, CBC reports, “Last week, the U.S. signalled its desire to use trade deals to change the way drug prices are set abroad, in an effort to have other countries shoulder more of the costs of pharma research. The U.S. has specifically complained about Canadian pricing policies. Such a negotiation would surely be controversial…”

And Politico reports, “Trump wants Americans to get lower prices for medicines — and the rest of the world may pay for it. His ‘America First’ message on drugs at home, coupled with pro-pharmaceutical industry policies abroad, could lead to higher costs for patients around the world — without making drugs more affordable for those in the U.S.”

That article adds, “Foreign governments and international advocates are struggling to reconcile Trump’s dual messages. He is making a populist call for affordability, but at the same time, U.S. diplomats have been defending pharma’s prerogatives more than ever in trade negotiations and international gatherings. … [The Association for Accessible Medicines] notes that if a renegotiated NAFTA deal grants pricey biologics 12 years of monopoly protection, not only would Mexico and Canada have to wait longer for cheaper copycat medicines, but the U.S. wouldn’t be able to change its own law to get biosimilars to market sooner.”

We will similarly be watching how Trudeau reconciles his commitment to completing a NAFTA 2.0 deal and the signals his government has been sending about pharmacare.

In February of this year, the federal government appointed Dr. Eric Hoskins to chair an advisory council with the goal recommending options on how to ‘ensure every Canadian has access to the medicine they need”. And just last month the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health released its report calling for a single-payer, publicly funded prescription drug coverage program for all.

The Council of Canadians calls on the Trudeau government to act immediately on the implementation of pharmacare and in its rush to secure a NAFTA 2.0 with the United States and Mexico to not sacrifice pharmacare to the Trump administration’s pharmaceutical industry-driven agenda.

To join our call for the Trudeau government to take action on pharmacare, please see our online action alert here.