Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trade Deficit on Drugs a Harbinger of Higher Costs under Canada-EU Deal: Experts

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trade Deficit on Drugs a Harbinger of Higher Costs under Canada-EU Deal: Experts

Article excerpt

Canada's pharma trade balance with EU lagging

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OTTAWA - Canada's deficit in its prescription drug trade with Europe swelled to more than $25 billion over the last five years. And experts say that's one more sign that consumers will face higher drug prices once the recent Canada-EU free trade deal comes into effect.

The figure emerged in an analysis by The Canadian Press of Canada's pharmaceutical trade with the European Union from 2008 to 2012, the most recent year statistics are available.

The analysis shows Canadian exports to Europe being dwarfed by imports from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Sweden among others.

Last month, the European Union won key pharmaceutical concessions from Canada after four tough years of free-trade negotiations.

Canada agreed to EU demands to extended patent protection for up to two years on brand-name drugs, and gave European firms the right of appeal against unfavourable court rulings, which could add 18 months to a patented drug's lucrative life.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged last month in Brussels there could be some "upward pressure" on drug prices, which would come in 2023 if the deal is made final by 2015. But he pledged that Ottawa would compensate the provinces.

Joel Lexchin, a York University health policy specialist, said that will be no help to Canadians with lower-paying jobs, or who don't have drug insurance plans.

He said Ottawa caved to the EU's tough pharmaceutical demands in exchange for gaining greater access for Canadian pork and beef in the heavily protected European market.

"The big push was to get Canadian access for some of our agricultural products to Europe, and if drugs are going to cost an extra billion or two billion a year, that was seen as the price we were going to pay for it," said Lexchin, who co-authored a recent study on how the trade deal would affect drug prices.

It estimated the cost to Canadians from delaying introduction of cheaper generic medicines to be between $800 million and $1. …

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