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Manulife, Loblaw need to ‘get the message’ on competition following deal, Champagne says

The Canadian Press - Wed Jan 31, 2:07PM CST

The federal minister in charge of promoting competition says he’s concerned about a deal between Manulife Financial Corp. and Loblaw Cos. Ltd. that restricts patients from filling prescriptions for specialty drugs at other pharmacies under their insurance plans.

Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Wednesday the arrangement, which affects around 260 medications meant to treat complex, chronic or life-threatening conditions, is not in line with “the direction we want to see.”

He says Manulife MFC-T and Loblaw L-T “don’t get the message” that Canadians want more competition and consumer choice.

A day earlier, NDP MPs Don Davies and Brian Masse penned a letter to Competition Commissioner Matthew Boswell requesting the Competition Bureau launch an investigation into the deal based on reporting by The Canadian Press.

The bureau did not immediately say whether it is looking into those concerns.

Manulife had previously also covered specialty drugs through national home and community health-care provider Bayshore HealthCare, but said earlier this month the shift would give patients “more options” to pick up their prescriptions from a Loblaw-owned pharmacy or receive them via delivery.

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