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Patents, brand-generic competition and the pricing of ethical drugs in Canada: some empirical evidence from British Columbia, 1981-1994

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This paper examines the impact of the 1987 changes in the Canadian Patent Act on the pricing of ethical drugs. From 1969 to 1987 Canada opted to control pharmaceutical prices by using the compulsory licensing provisions of the Act to promote competition between branded drugs and their generic equivalents. In 1987, however, the Act was amended to guarantee patent holders an extended period (7-10 years) of protection. This reduced brand-generic competition by retarding generic entry and suggests that, ceteris paribus, after 1987 pharmaceutical prices increased relative to pre-1987 prices. This hypothesis is examined for the period 1981-1994 using a sample of 82 drugs from the British Columbia Pharmacare Programme. The major conclusions are: despite evidence of significant first mover advantages which resulted in higher brand prices, competition from generics succeeded in reducing overall market prices prior to 1987; but, after 1987, the efficacy of generic competition was reduced and both brand and market prices increased.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2001

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