Even as Sanofi Pasteur commits $500 million to revamp a vaccine manufacturing plant in Ontario, the pharmaceuticals company is warning the Canadian government on the country’s competitiveness.
“We would call upon the government to recognize what the pharmaceutical and vaccine company is doing here. Because we are very important contributors to the economy and the healthcare system,” David Loew, executive vice president of Sanofi, told the Financial Post. “Each country is competing with every other country around the world.”
The vaccine unit of Paris-based Sanofi SA aims to double vaccine production with a new facility on its campus in North York, expected to open within four years. The increased production is primarily meant to address the growing need for booster vaccines.
Ontario is providing a $50 million grant to the project, according to a provincial government release, while Ottawa is also investing $20 million as part of its FedDev program, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains said at the event Thursday, noting that he will “look forward to your next conversation on the next investment.”
But before that happens, the pharma company believes the Canadian government needs to “truly listen” to the industry’s input as “campuses around the world are competing for investment,” Loew said. “We feel like the government needs to take this into account and they’re not really doing that.”
One issue is the price changes proposed by the Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, a federal consumer protection review board that has the power to set maximum prices on newly patented drugs entering the market. The board has proposed new changes to the Patented Medicines Regulations to include penalties for price gouging — its first major change to the document since it was ratified 20 years ago.
“What we’re currently watching with great concern is the ecosystem in Canada especially on the healthcare reimbursements (side), for pharmaceuticals and vaccines at least (as they are) being discussed now through the PMPRB.”
When it comes to being part of regulatory discussions, “the pharmaceutical company has not really been having a seat at the table,” Loew said.
The company is arguing that before considering whether vaccines are affordable, it’s important to consider the full impact of vaccination. “Actually it is the most efficient intervention in medical care that you can do after clean water. Vaccines help lower morbidity and mortality, which should be considered when setting the price, he said.
An innovative vaccine may cost more but reduces risk of being treated at the ICU and is an example of cost savings that are “highly attractive” in the healthcare system, Loew said.
Sanofi will draw on its own pool of employees in Canada, who will receive specialized training to meet its needs, Vincent Hingot, head of vaccines industrial affairs at Sanofi Pasteur said.
Canada was chosen for the expansion because of the skilled labour force and healthcare environment — at least prior to December’s announcement on possible PMPRB reforms from Health Canada, Hingot said.