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Ensuring quicker access to new drugs

Montreal, June 17, 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us once again the importance of quickly developing and approving the use of innovative drugs. A publication launched today by the Montreal Economic Institute has two recommendations to help ensure that Canadians have quicker access to medications.

“Pharmaceutical innovation represents one of the great triumphs of modern times. In fact, it is estimated that 73% of the increase in life expectancy in recent decades is explained by the emergence of new drugs,” says Maria Lily Shaw, Economist at the MEI. “Moreover, it is much less expensive to treat medical conditions with drugs than with hospital resources.”

“Unfortunately, Canada’s drug approval system is slower than that of the United States or the European Union,” explains Krystle Wittevrongel, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI. “In fact, approval times in Canada are three months longer on average than in the United States, and one month longer than in Europe. Not to mention that pharmaceutical companies generally begin the approval process in Canada between three and eighteen months after having started the same process in the United States or Europe. It’s a substantial lag, and a costly one,” states the co-author of the publication.

“The good news is that there are solutions. First of all, we should maintain the use of rolling submissions for new drug approval applications, which is currently in effect due to an Interim Order issued by the Minister of Health. By allowing pharmaceutical companies to submit incomplete applications at first and then add new information as it becomes available, we can gain precious months in the approval process,” points out Maria Lily Shaw. “It’s clear that a COVID-19 vaccine would never have been approved so quickly without this measure.”

“Secondly, agreements with the American and European authorities would allow us to substantially accelerate the authorization of new drugs that have already been approved in these countries. It’s a very simple and rational solution that would allow us to reduce the gap between Canada and other industrialized countries in terms of access to innovative drugs,” concludes Krystle Wittevrongel.

The Economic Note entitled “Shortening Approval Delays for New Drugs: A Safe, Straightforward Prescription” is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.


Interview requests: Marie-Eve McNicoll, Communications Advisor, Cell. 581-777-5060, Email: memcnicoll@iedm.org

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