Discussion Paper. On Friday June 24, the PMPRB released a long delayed discussion paper covering a wide range of issues that go to the core of the PMPRB’s price regulation mandate. The PMPRB will be seeking input from stakeholders over the Summer/Fall of 2016 and will hold public policy hearings in the Fall/Winter 2016/17 with an objective of proposing guideline and policy changes in the Spring/Summer of 2017. Given that some changes may also require regulatory or legislative changes it is unlikely that any changes would come into force before January 2018. The discussion paper can be found at http://www.pmprb-cepmb.gc.ca/en/news-and-events/consultations/current-major-consultations/rethinking-the-guidelines/discussion-paper.
Board down to 2 Board members. As of this posting (Monday June 27) the PMPRB has only 2 board members with no Chair or Vice-Chair. The Vice Chair’s (Mitch Levine) first 5-year term expired in March 2016 and the government has yet to reappoint him (as had been expected). The Chair’s (Mary Catherine Lindberg) second and final term ended June 26, 2016. It is possible that Mitch Levine may be appointed the new Chair. The Vice-Chair position is now listed as an opportunity on the federal government “Appointments” website with an application deadline of July 11. Until a Chair or Vice-Chair is appointed, the PMPRB may not be able to issue notices of hearing, accept Voluntary Compliance Undertakings or initiate or implement any policy or guideline changes. Also, the Federal appointment website for PMPRB no longer lists Richard Bogoroch as a board member. Bogoroch, a personal injury lawyer, was appointed in 2012 and has apparently resigned his appointment given that it was not set to expire until 2017.
2015 Annual report delayed. The Minister of Health apparently has not yet tabled the PMPRB’s 2015 Annual Report in Parliament even though it would have been submitted to the Minister by the PMPRB in May. The report which include price trends data is relied upon by many policy analysts covering pharmaceutical price trends in Canada and internationally. Although the Minister is not compelled to table the PMPRB Annual Report for 30 sitting days after it is submitted by PMPRB, traditionally the report has been tabled in June when Parliament rises for the summer (unless it has been dissolved or prorogued). The 2014 report was only tabled in December 2015 after the Conservative government declined to table it in the usual time frame and then dissolved Parliament for the Federal election leaving the new Liberal Health Minister to table it. It is odd that a new government so committed to openness and transparency would choose to delay the report’s release contrary to the spirt of the PMPRB’s statutory reporting mandate.
The PMPRB is striving to be a relevant and accessible regulator of pharmaceutical prices – a task made all the more difficult when the Government fails to appoint Board members in a timely manner and the Minister delays tabling the PMPRB’s Annual Report. The reasons for the long delay in releasing the discussion paper remain unclear.