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Proposed new drug regulations will hurt all Canadians — and Ottawa has been warned

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In December 2017, the federal government proposed amendments to the regulations governing the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB), the federal organization that has set ceiling prices for new medicines for the past 30 years. The revisions are intended to make prescription medicines more affordable. The final regulations, shared last week in the dead of summer, are virtually the same as those originally proposed, despite strong concerns about their negative effects having been expressed by patients, the pharmaceutical industry and others.

The amendments, due to come into effect in July 2020, include three significant changes. The first is on the roster of countries whose drug prices are compared with the proposed Canadian price in the PMPRB’s international comparison. Six lower-price countries are replacing two with higher prices. The effect of the switch will be to reduce the maximum prices for new medicines in Canada to around the median of prices charged in over 30 OECD countries.

Ottawa is either burying its collective head in the sand or deliberately misleading Canadians

The second change is that the PMPRB will be required to assess the “value” of each new drug using cost-effectiveness analyses already reviewed by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) when it makes its reimbursement recommendations to Canada’s public drug insurance plans (except those in Quebec). CADTH doesn’t set prices but frequently recommends big reductions — 50 to 80 per cent, sometimes over 95 per cent — to achieve cost-effectiveness.

The third major change is a requirement for pharmaceutical manufacturers to divulge information to the PMPRB on confidential rebates and other commercial terms negotiated with Canadian insurance plans.

The federal government says its amendments will not impact the way pharmaceutical companies view Canada as a place to do business. It is either burying its collective head in the sand or deliberately misleading Canadians.

A well-defined relationship exists between the market prices of medicines and manufacturers’ investments in a country. Pharmaceutical R&D investment in Canada is about $30 per capita. In the U.S., where drug prices are considerably higher, it is more than C$360 per capita. In New Zealand, where prices are tightly controlled, pharmaceutical investment was under C$10 per capita in 2011 and may be less today after several leading pharmaceutical companies ceased or severely restricted R&D in response to new, more rigid price controls.

The governments of Ontario and Quebec, where 84 per cent of the pharmaceutical investment is spent in Canada and 87 per cent of the industry’s employees are based, understand the risks to investment and jobs posed by the regulation amendments and have warned Ottawa.

Market price restrictions also negatively impact new drug launches. An analysis of the relationship between the number of new drug launches in each of 31 OECD countries and the associated price level for patented drugs, per capita gross domestic product and total population in each country demonstrated that price was the only variable that was a statistically significant predictor of the number of new drug launches.

Greater access to newer medicines has been shown in numerous studies to improve patient health by preventing premature death and/or significantly improving patients’ quality of life. But patients cannot benefit if pharmaceutical companies do not seek regulatory approval for their medicines because they view Canada’s market conditions unfavourably. This already occurs in Canada — about 20 per cent of new therapeutic drugs approved in the U.S. do not come here — and it undoubtedly impacts New Zealand: only 54 per cent of new drugs approved in the U.S. receive regulatory approval there.

Pharmaceutical companies might be able to adjust to a change in the PMPRB’s international price comparison leading to around a 20 per cent reduction in new drug prices, but any requirement for much greater reductions, say 40 to 80 per cent, would render most business models unsustainable. And if business-sensitive information regarding confidential rebates and other commercial terms negotiated with payers does not remain confidential, companies’ prices and sales in other countries will be jeopardized, thus further reducing Canada’s market appeal.

A company’s sustainability depends on its ability to keep its profitability attractive to investors, who want long-term predictability in the company’s capacity to generate and commercialize its innovative products. The federal government’s amendments to the PMPRB may make medicines more affordable for some patients, but they will certainly reduce Canada’s attractiveness as a jurisdiction in which manufacturers seek regulatory and reimbursement approval for new beneficial drugs, and that will hurt all Canadians.

Nigel Rawson is president of Eastlake Research Group, based in Oakville, Ont, and an affiliate scholar at Toronto’s Canadian Health Policy Institute.

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Ottawa Book Expo Author Boot Camp: What’s in it For You?

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Would you love to attend a writers’ book camp? If yes, then check out this upcoming boot camp on meetup.com organized in conjunction with the Ottawa Book Expo. The boot camp seeks to boost the commercial success of authors while providing a convivial atmosphere for social networking among authors. There you would learn what you need to do to boost the sale of your book. The goal of the group asides social networking is to empower authors to make money while also saving money.

What’s in it for you?

Whether you are a new writer who hasn’t published any books yetor you are a veteran writer who has been publishing for decades, a writers boot camp could still be extremely beneficial to you in a couple of ways. There, you would get to meet other writers, you would be motivated to start up your book or continue your writing journey. Ways you can benefit from a writers boot camp include:

  • You get to ask questions and have your questions answered.

The book camp is not just a place to make new friends and link up with old ones; you also get to learn new ideas. You could ask questions about any topic on writing and have these questions answered by professionals. You would also get to see other writers ask their questions, and learn from them. Your questionsare more likely to be answered directly by someone who knows their onion in the field.

  • Network with other writers

At the boot camp, you would get to make friends with other writers who would be in attendance. A lot of writers are introverts who would rather not make small talk; however, you have to remember that putting yourself out there, is what’s going to help you sell your books. You could also come along with a business card that has your name, what kind of author you are, and the links to your social media. Networking with other writers is definitely worth the time and money you’re spending at the Expo.

  • One last thing

There’s no better way to gain some exposure as a writer than starting local. The boot camp would feature experts on all types of writing. This is one of the most efficient ways to connect with other local writers who would are likely to keep in touch with you through social media or in person, you can also connect with your fans and readers who would be likely to purchase your books. If you’re thinking about attending a writers’ festival, start local, with the Ottawa Book Expo.

The event is open to all writers and publishers locally and internationally. The Expo is a grassroots-oriented author, publisher, bookseller and literary services festival which supports authors and publishers who seek to promote marginalized voices such as those of different cultural backgrounds, gender and LGBTQ communities.The Expo would hold at the Horticulture Building in Lansdowne Park on the 20th of October 2019.

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Virtual farmer’s market comes to Ottawa

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Ottawa first-ever virtual farmer’s market has begun delivering food from local farms straight to people’s homes.

Farm to Hand is making it easier for people who cannot access their local farmer’s markets to find local, fresh organic food by bringing ordered food right to their doors. 

“The difference between us and the farmers market is really just the convenience and the on-demandness,” Sean Mallia, the co-founder of the business, told CBC Radio’s In Town and Out.

“[Often times a] person wants to make the purchase but they don’t have the time on Saturdays to go to the farmers market. Everyone wants to eat local … so when it’s easy for them to do it, it just happens.” In Town and Out No time to drive to the farmer’s market but really want to eat local?

Connecting farmers with people 

The online platform allows farmers to list all their own products, and buyers can have the goods delivered. 

“What we really are trying to do is build that connection between farmer and consumer,” Mallia said. “When people fill up a cart … they’re not just filling a cart full of food, they’re filling a cart full of farmers and farms and their stories.”

Mallia said the aim is to connect people to the “vibrant food ecosystem” around them, and to local support farmers.

The virtual market is currently limited to the Ottawa area as a pilot project, but Mallia, 21, said the company is looking to expand.

“[We chose Ottawa because] Ottawa really cares. Ottawa really thinks about local [food] and thinks about sustainability,” he said. “It just made sense to come out of Ottawa.”

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Denley: Stonebridge and Mattamy show compromise is possible over development in Ottawa

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In Ottawa, development proposals too often end up in acrimony and trips to the provincial planning tribunal. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Mattamy Homes and residents of the south Nepean suburb of Stonebridge work together to resolve a dispute in a way that’s likely to lead to a victory for both sides.

A little over a year ago, Mattamy created an uproar in the golf course community when it announced a plan to build 158 new homes on golf course lands and alter the Stonebridge course to make it shorter and less attractive to golfers. To residents, it looked like the first step in a plan to turn most, or all, of the course into housing.

It’s easy to see why residents were upset. When people pay a premium for a lot backing onto a golf course, there is certainly an implication that the lot will continue to back onto a golf course, but without a legally binding guarantee, it’s no sure thing.

Mattamy’s situation was understandable, too. This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive, doubly so when the golf course is owned by a development company.

This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive.

In the face of the local opposition, Mattamy withdrew its development application. When things cooled down, the company, the neighbours and the city started to work together on finding a solution that would satisfy everyone.

With the city-sponsored help of veteran planning consultant Jack Stirling, they came up with an unusual idea that will still let Mattamy develop its desired number of homes, in exchange for a promise to operate the course for at least 10 years and redesign it so that it remains attractive to golfers.

At the end of the 10 years, Mattamy can sell the course to the community for $6 million. To raise the money, the community working group is proposing a special levy to be paid by Stonebridge homeowners starting in 2021. The amount will range from $175 a year to $475 a year, depending on property values.

If the deal is approved by a majority of homeowners, Mattamy gets its development and a way out of the money-losing golf business. Homeowners get certainty about no future development. They can choose to keep the course going or retain the 198 acres as green space. It’s not a cheap solution, but it keeps their community as it is and preserves property values.

If a majority of homeowners backs the deal, both the levy and redevelopment will still need to be approved by the city, something scheduled for late this fall.

Stonebridge Community Association president Jay McLean was part of the working group that prepared the proposal and he’s pleased with the outcome. The community’s number one goal was preserving green space, and the deal will accomplish that, he says. Mattamy division president Kevin O’Shea says the deal “gives the community the certainty they are looking for.”

As useful as this deal could be for Stonebridge residents, it doesn’t provide a template to resolve a somewhat similar dispute in Kanata North, where the owner of the Kanata Lakes golf course wants to work with a group of local developers to replace the course with housing. In Kanata, a longstanding legal agreement saying the community has to have 40 per cent open space strengthens residents’ situation. In Stonebridge, there was no legal impediment to developing the whole course.

Golf course communities have become an anachronism in a city intent on intensifying within the urban boundary. Redeveloping those lands for housing is in sync with the city’s planning goals, but it’s not politically saleable to homeowners who thought they had a deal. If it goes ahead, the Stonebridge plan shows there is a reasonable middle ground.

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