The new NAFTA gives U.S. Big Pharma new protections that could increase the cost of prescription drugs. The deal gives biologics, a new class of drugs made out of human or animal tissue, 10 years of data exclusivity. Currently, in Canada, we only give 8 years of data exclusivity.
The U.S. demanded this change when it was involved in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). When the U.S. pulled out of the TPP, the remaining countries removed data protection for biologics and renamed the agreement the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Biologics include drugs such as insulin, and drugs that treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Some popular brands of biologics are Humira, for Crohn’s disease or Remicade, a rheumatoid arthritis drug.
In 2016, Canadians spent $30 billion to fill more than 600 million prescriptions. Canadians already pay the second highest costs of OECD countries for prescription drugs. Studies have found that many people can’t afford the medications they are prescribed. In a House of Commons health committee meeting, the Assistant Deputy Health Minister admitted that, “High prescription drug costs will rise under pending free trade agreements.”
And while a national pharmacare program is necessary to bring drug prices down, the extensions in data exclusivity for biologics will make a pharmacare program much more expensive to run.
The Council of Canadians supporters have called on Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to not stand in the way of U.S. progressive efforts to remove these market protections for Big Pharma from the new NAFTA. The Council of Canadians opposes ratification of a new NAFTA that includes more market protections for Big Pharma corporations that leaves those who are sick to pay the price.