Vaccines and the pharmaceutical industry | Ottawa overtaken by its indifference?

Vaccines and the pharmaceutical industry |  Ottawa overtaken by its indifference?

(Ottawa) For the past five years, pharmaceutical companies have been facing a wall of virtual indifference from the Trudeau government, it has been claimed in the community. This lack of “constructive” dialogue between the federal government and industry giants may partly explain the difficulties Canada is experiencing in terms of vaccine supply.

Last year, Merck’s international CEOs (including the United States, Europe and Canada) wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting a meeting to discuss the government’s public policy priorities and address the goals. of the pharmaceutical company in terms of research and innovation.

The prime minister’s office politely declined the request for a meeting, learned Press.

The President and CEO of Merck Canada Inc., Anna Van Acker, in office since 2017 after a long career in Europe, for her part requested a meeting with former Minister of Industry Navdeep Bains. She also encountered the same radio silence.

And when Merck gave birth to a brief proposing possible solutions in order to allow Canada to consolidate its achievements in this sector, the reception was the same.

The lack of “constructive” dialogue between the federal government and industry giants for the past five years could also partly explain the difficulties that Canada is experiencing in terms of vaccine supply in these times, according to Acker.

“Canada has the talent, the knowledge, the wealth, the knowledge economy, artificial intelligence and all that. These are all important assets. If we now had good public policies and good relations with the federal government and a stimulating strategy, we would have the necessary tools to convince companies like Merck to invest in Canada ”, declared Van Acker in an interview with Press.

While the new Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, has given himself the mandate of rebuilding the country’s biofabrication capacities, Van Acker believes that he will not be able to carry out this task without the support and consultation of the industry.

The CEO of Merck Canada Inc. gives as examples the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, who maintain “a constructive dialogue” with the leaders of the pharmaceutical companies. At the start of the pandemic, Mr. Macron made a solemn appeal for the mobilization of the pharmaceutical industry, going so far as to quickly bring together the leaders of the laboratories working on a vaccine against COVID-19.

We are part of the solution. This is what must be understood. We still have one great goal in common, which is to find the best drugs for Canadian patients and to stimulate innovation within acceptable timeframes.

Anna Van Acker, President and CEO of Merck Canada

Last December, when the Council on Industrial Strategy, set up by former Minister Navdeep Bains, unveiled its report and recommendations to revive the economy after the pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry noted with dismay that the sector life sciences had been completely evacuated. Quebec, however, has made it a priority sector.

“There was no mention of the priority that should be given to the life sciences sector. It is incomprehensible that while we are living in a pandemic, a global health crisis, our industry is not even mentioned as a priority sector ”, lamented Van Acker.

A climate of mistrust

It must be said that a climate of mistrust has developed between Ottawa and the pharmaceutical industry since the Trudeau government announced its intention, two years ago, to grant broader powers to the Pricing Review Board. patented drugs to regulate drug prices in Canada.

Seven giants of the pharmaceutical industry have undertaken to challenge these “major” changes in court, which were approved a few months ago by the federal cabinet, on the grounds that the power to regulate drug prices belongs exclusively to the provinces and that they exercise it in an adequate manner.

Organizations such as Cystic Fibrosis Canada, the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, and the Intellectual Property Owners Association, among others, support the legal crusade of these companies. These organizations fear that the Trudeau government’s ambitions will reduce investment and research on new drugs.

In a brief filed in the Superior Court of Quebec last fall, businesses estimated that the Trudeau government’s move could cause them losses of $ 8.8 billion over the next decade. A huge sum that would not be invested in research and innovation, we warn.

The Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ) also supports the position of the pharmaceutical industry and implores the Trudeau government to back down.

“Key industrial sectors such as life sciences must be given special consideration in the context of the recovery. It is imperative that the government further promote research and innovation in this sector by having attractive and competitive policies. In this sense, the current proposed reform of the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board unfortunately does not meet this objective and must be reconsidered, ”said the FCCQ in a recent press release.

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