Canada to delay drug price reforms by six months, industry group says

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FILE PHOTO: A pharmacist works at a pharmacy in Toronto

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada has delayed the implementation of new drug price rules that had been due to go into effect on Friday by six months, the pharmaceutical industry's main lobby group said on Wednesday.

The pharmaceutical industry has fought the new regime, meant to reduce patented drug prices that are among the highest in the world, for years.

"The middle of a global pandemic is not the time to implement measures that will distract from the fight against COVID-19," said Innovative Medicines Canada (IMC), which represents major drugmakers in Canada.

"This delay provides the time and the opportunity for government to work closely with industry, patients and other health system stakeholders on a better path forward."

The rules are now set to go into effect on July 1, 2021, according to IMC. Health Canada did not immediately comment.

Reuters reported in November that industry had made a last-ditch C$1 billion ($784 million) proposal to the federal government in hopes of fending off parts of the crackdown. The government said its position had not changed.

The regulations change which countries Canada's Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) uses as a benchmark to set some maximum drug prices. The PMPRB will drop the United States and Switzerland from its comparisons, and add nations with lower prices.

They will also empower the PMPRB to consider the cost-effectiveness of new drugs, and their potential impact on government budgets, a new approach for the federal watchdog.

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Nick Zieminski)