Lawsuit could change patent drug pricing


MONTREAL – Canada’s ability to control the price of patented drug prices could be at risk after a U.S. company challenged the constitutionality of the federal regulator’s ability to order a price cut for a costly treatment for a rare genetic condition.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board that determined that the price of Soliris, which has been dubbed the world’s costliest drug, is “excessive.”

The company has challenged the federal board’s authority to order a reduction to prices, saying that it intrudes on provincial jurisdiction.

The drug’s reported price is between $500,000 and $700,000 annually per patient.

University of Ottawa health law professor Amir Attaran said the impact of the lawsuit goes beyond one drug.

If Alexion is successful, it could put a stop to the federal government’s ability to control the cost of all patented drugs.

Alexion said in its statement of claim that the price of Soliris has not increased since being introduced to Canada in 2009, nor decreased in other countries.

The company said the board’s allegations of excessive pricing between 2012 and 2014 are the result of the fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar.

The drug generated US$2.2 billion of revenues last year, up 44 per cent from 2013.

A spokeswoman for the board said it couldn’t comment on the suit because it is before the court.