Canada’s Intellectual Property Firm

Competition Bureau’s interest in the health sector continues

Authored byAlice Tseng

Promoting competition and innovation in Canada’s health sector, including the pharmaceutical industry, is a strategic priority for the Competition Bureau. In 2021, the Bureau announced that it joined its counterparts in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union in launching an international working group1. Though the group’s main focus is mergers, the Commissioner noted, “… we will continue to collaborate closely with our international partners to ensure we are staying on top of emerging issues – with respect to mergers as well as any type of potentially anticompetitive conduct.”

On January 10, 2022, the Bureau and Health Canada (Health Products and Food Branch) (HPFB) issued a Joint Notice about their collaboration in the following areas:

  1. General information sharing
    • Exchanging information on the mandate, role, and framework of each organization to identify areas of mutual benefit.
    • Sharing information on developments in these areas and on topics of mutual interest.
  2. Cooperation on Bureau enforcement actions
    • Upon request, HPFB provides information to the Bureau in the context of specific investigations.
    • HPFB refers issues to the Bureau where the Competition Act may apply.
  3. The Bureau shares findings related to the impact of regulatory frameworks on competition in the context of access to medicines
    • The Bureau identifies issues where aspects of the regulatory framework for pharmaceuticals may be impacting elements of competition, including innovation and choice, and collaborates on identifying potential changes to address these issues.
    • More generally, the Bureau provides any support or advice on designing laws, regulations, and policies in a way that balances policy objectives, including access to safe and effective therapies, with competition considerations.
  4. HPFB provides relevant feedback to the Bureau on competition-related issues that impact access to medicines for Canadians.

The Bureau has considered a myriad of issues in the pharmaceutical industry. In the last few years alone, it has considered issues ranging from Canadian Reference Products and Risk Management Plans (discussed further in the Joint Notice) to biosimilars2 to prohibitions against off-label use in procurement contracts3. The Bureau has also considered numerous issues in the broader health care sector beyond pharma 4.

Given the Bureau’s interest in health care, those in the industry (especially the pharmaceutical industry) will want to keep potential anti-trust considerations in mind when engaging in any activity.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the  Life Sciences Regulatory & Compliance group.

The preceding is intended as a timely update on Canadian intellectual property and technology law. The content is informational only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. To obtain such advice, please communicate with our offices directly.