Evidence of meeting #36 for Health in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was market.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jim Keon  President, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association
  • Russell Williams  President, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)
  • David Johnston  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management
  • Kathleen Boyle  Vice-President, Services, HealthPRO Procurement Services Inc.
  • Michel Robidoux  President, Sandoz Canada, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association
  • Mark Ferdinand  Senior Director, Health and Economic Policy, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)
  • Michael Blanchard  Clinical Director, Pharmacy Services, HealthPRO Procurement Services Inc.
  • Jeremy Desai  President and Chief Operating Officer, Apotex Inc., Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association

10:05 a.m.

President, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association

Jim Keon

I think you heard from Sandoz about the history of their situation.

In regard to some of the shortages, I think I might ask Dr. Desai to respond.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

I am sorry, our time....

I've been waiting to hear the answer to Mr. Gill's question: would you be willing to put in a six-month warning for people? I didn't have that answer. Yes or no, sir?

10:05 a.m.

President, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association

Jim Keon

Our companies are providing anticipated shortages. If they know six months in advance, they would do so. Often, unfortunately, they do not know that.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Thank you.

Dr. Morin.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

First of all, I must tell you that I am really pleased with what you said earlier about the fact that witnesses must answer questions, and, accordingly, the support you gave to Ms. Leitch, who interrupted Mr. Robidoux several times.

I recall that the Minister of Health came here twice. At that time, the opposition parties wanted to obtain answers to their questions and you prevented us from responding. We recall very clearly what happened: you told us to give her time to respond and as a result, she used up all of our five minutes.

So I am therefore expecting you to use the same procedure the next time that the Minister of Health comes here before the committee.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Do you have a question, Dr. Morin?

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Yes.

My question is for Mr. Williams. You talked about the price of medication. As you said, and as we know, the price of medication goes down as a result of the price of generics. Large corporations have merged and only the most profitable remain.

Moreover, I would like to raise an interesting point regarding the price of medication for consumers. Since the early years of 2000, the average expenditure on medications per person was $329. Nine years later, this figure had more than doubled and the average was $736.

Despite the fact that drugs may be generating less profit, the demand is, nevertheless, growing throughout the country and particularly in Quebec. Quebeckers and Canadians are therefore spending more of their income on medication. I had cited the figure of $736 for 2009. This is an increase of 5.4% compared to 2008. Once again, we can see that the pharmaceutical sector is doing very well financially.

I am going to discuss some more specific numbers from 2009. On average, an individual taking Lipitor to reduce blood cholesterol levels will pay $800 per year. That amount represents a sizable amount of his income. In the case of Remicade, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the cost is $32,000; Effexor, used to treat depression, costs $450; and Nexium, used to prevent ulcers, costs $800 per year. So these patients have to pay large amounts of money.

There is another issue that worries me and also concerns consumers. We know that the hospitals pay a fixed price. However, when people go through their private insurance companies to pay for their medication, there is a large discrepancy in the price. The magazine Protégez-Vous, which you are no doubt familiar with, did an investigation in 2010 on the various prices charged by pharmacies for the same drug.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Dr. Morin, you're speaking too quickly for the interpreters.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Thank you for correcting me.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Can you slow down just a little bit?

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Yes. I want to make the most use out of the five minutes that I am given.

As I was saying, the magazine Protégez-Vous, which you no doubt are familiar with, did a study on the price differences between pharmacies for the same medication.

Alesse 28, which is a birth control pill, was selling for $22.15 per box in Gatineau and $17.50 in Quebec city. So there is quite a difference in the price. Nexium, which I referred to earlier, was selling for $70 in Gaspé and $89 in Montreal. So this would represent a difference of $230 per year for two patients living in two cities in Quebec. Synthroid cost $5.21 in Chicoutimi and $11.34 in Gatineau.

As the price of medication is always rising, the middle class winds up footing the bill.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Can I have a point of order, please?

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Dr. Leitch.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

I apologize, but I thought the intent behind our committee discussion today was about drug shortages. The conversation you seem to be having, albeit we haven't made it to a question, is all about drug pricing. I wanted to make sure that we were staying on point.

This is a very important issue to me—drug shortages, that is—as is drug pricing, but they are separate—

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Excuse me, the agenda says “drug supply”. It's not up to you to determine—