Madam Speaker, it is great to be here tonight to speak on a very critical topic.
In 2017, Health Canada proposed changes to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board regulations. These changes introduced new factors to determine whether a medicine is being sold at an excessive price. Since these changes were proposed, rare disease patients have been warning there will be a problem. The new PMPRB regulations require drug manufacturers to lower the prices by a lot. By some estimates, price cuts of 45% to 75% will be required.
That sounds great, but the reality is that it makes our country a much less attractive market and hurts patients, particularly those with rare diseases. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
From November 1, 2019, to February 29, 2020, Health Canada registration for new clinical trials dropped by 60% below the average of the four preceding years. There has also been a two-thirds drop in drugs approved before approval in the United States or approved within a year of approval there. The rate is now 15% of drugs.
We are dangerously falling behind because of the chill these proposed changes have caused. This is having a real-world consequence.
In my riding, I have constituents suffering from rare disorders like cystic fibrosis. No, they cannot get a doctor to get a special certificate, because they are not available. That does not work. The Liberals say it constantly.
Cystic fibrosis patients desperately need approval of the new drug called Trikafta. It could help 90% of people with cystic fibrosis. It was fast-tracked for approval in the United States and the U.K. It is available in the U.S. and many other countries, but in Canada, patients have no access.
The manufacturer, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, says its concern about proposed changes to Canada's regulations for patented medicines is the reason the product has not been launched in Canada. When the Liberals say it has not applied, there is a reason it has not applied. It is because of the regulations. It cannot drop its prices by as much as the PMPRB changes would require. Like many other pharmaceutical companies, it will not even bother applying to Health Canada under these new rules. Who suffers? It is patients with rare diseases like cystic fibrosis.
This is not about pharmaceutical companies; it is about patients who are suffering and need the drugs. They need their government to deliver for them.
Now we have the coronavirus. There is no drug for it. What are we doing? We are doing all sorts of things in the world economy. The Liberal government gave $50 million to the UN to help with it, but how would $50 million have helped the patients who have cystic fibrosis? We know 90% of them would be helped by this drug, but the Liberals gave $50 million to the UN.
Patients understand that companies should bring drugs to market at a reasonable price, but they also need the government to make sure the regulatory environment does not prevent them from getting access to life-saving drugs.
Cystic fibrosis patients do not have time to wait for the government to sort this mess out. They need action now to get this drug. The government needs to stop the proposed changes at the PMPRB and find a better way to get new drugs into the hands of patients. They need them now.