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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 2020 – Authors, Publishers look forward to a top-notch Canadian book fair

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Diversity has always been a complex issue, no matter where you look.Case in point, world-famous writer, Stephen King, has recently come under criticism for his views on diversity. The best-selling author had stated, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art, only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Many criticized the novelist as being out of touch and “ignorant,” but one cannot deny that King’s opinions on diversity, mirror the thoughts of a whole lot of people in the creative industry.

The Toronto Book Expo is coming back in 2020, with a multi-cultural concept that aims to include marginalized authors.  The Expo intends to celebrate literary works of diverse cultural backgrounds, and the entire literary community in Canada is expectant. Book-lovers and writers alike, are invited to three days of uninhibited literary celebration where diverse cultural works will be prioritized. At the event, authors will be allowed to share their culture with a broad audience. The audience will be there specifically to purchase multi-cultural works.

Multicultural literary expos do not come every day. In Canada, there is a noticeable lack of literary events celebrating other cultures. This leads to a significantly lower amount of cultural diversity in the industry. The Toronto Book Expo would aim at giving more recognition to these marginalized voices. Understandably, more recognizable work will be prioritized.

The Toronto Book Expo is making a statement that diversity is needed in the literary community. The statement is truly motivating, especially if you consider the fact that this could mean more culturally diverse works of literature.

There is a lot of noticeable cultural ignorance in literature. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and books are one of the best means of improving multi-cultural diversity in literature. The Toronto Book Expo is going to fully utilize books to fight ignorance in the literary industry.

Real progress cannot be made if there is a substantial amount of ignorant people in the industry. In spite of advancements made in education in recent years, there is still a considerable percentage of adults who remain unable to read and write.The Toronto Book Expo aims to bring awareness to social literacy issues such as illiteracy.

It is important to uphold high literacy levels in the community and to support those who are uneducated. A thriving society cannot be achieved if the community is not able to read their civil liberties and write down their grievances.

The major foundation of a working and dynamic society is entrenched in literature. Literature offers us an understandingof the changes being made to our community.

The event would go on for three days at three different venues. Day 1 would hold at the York University Student & Convention Centre at 15 Library Lane on March 19. Day 2 would be held at the Bram and BlumaAppel Salon Facility on the second floor of the main Toronto Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto on March 21 and day 3 of the expo would take place at the internationally famous Roy Thomson Hall.

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A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $75,300 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.Attention, Canadians! We’re featuring Money Diaries from across Canada on a regular basis, and we want to hear from you. Submit your Money Diary here.Today: a biologist working in government who makes $75,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bathing suit. Occupation: Biologist
Industry: Government
Age: 27
Location: Ottawa, ON
Salary: $75,300
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,930
Gender Identity: Woman

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Ottawa doctor pens nursery rhyme to teach proper handwashing

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An Ottawa doctor has turned to song to teach kids — and adults, for that matter — how to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.

Dr. Nisha Thampi, an infectious disease physician at CHEO, the area’s children’s hospital, created a video set to the tune of Frère Jacques and featuring the six-step handwashing method recommended by the World Health Organization.

Thampi’s 25-second rendition, which was co-authored by her daughter and Dr. Yves Longtin, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, is featured in the December issue of The BMJ, or British Medical Journal. 

Thampi said as an infectious disease physician and a mother of two, she thinks a lot about germs at home and school.

“I was trying to find a fun way to remember the stuff,” she said. “There are six steps that have been codified by the World Health Organization, but they’re complex and hard to remember.” 

Thampi said she came up with the idea to rewrite the lyrics to the nursery rhyme on World Hand Hygiene Day in May, when she was thinking about how to help people remember the technique. 

She said studies have shown that handwashing is effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea-related illnesses and respiratory diseases. 

“So I’d say it’s one of the most important and easiest things we can do.”

The video includes such often-overlooked steps as “wash the back,” “twirl the tips around” and “thumb attack,” which pays special attention to the first digit.

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