(OTTAWA) Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says he has not exerted undue political pressure on the independent federal agency that regulates the price of patented drugs in its efforts to reduce drug costs.

New Democratic Party (NDP) health critic Don Davies accuses the minister of halting implementation of a new rule aimed at lowering drug costs at the behest of drug companies resistant to such a change.

The new regulations came into effect in July and should lead the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) to compare the prices of Canadian drugs to those of a greater number of countries in a similar situation.

The PMPRB was consulting on the finer details associated with the rule in November when Mr. Duclos wrote to its acting president and suggested that the consultation process be put on hold to give drug companies, patient groups, ministers provincial and to himself more time to understand the changes.

One of the organization’s board members resigned soon after, saying Mr. Duclos had undermined the board’s independence.

Mr. Duclos says that although the law required him to give his opinion on the consultation process, the decision to suspend the application of the new rule was ultimately up to the PMPRB.

Davies says the minister is standing with a pharmaceutical industry that has fiercely opposed the new rules, rather than supporting Canadians who need access to affordable medicines.

Canada is the third country with the highest prices for drugs, behind only the United States and Switzerland.