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UPDATE 1-Merck Canada says new drug price regulations are unconstitutional

(Adds comment from Merck Canada, background, details)

Aug 23 (Reuters) - Merck Canada and a group of pharmaceutical companies are challenging the constitutionality of new regulations meant to lower patented drug prices, the company said in a statement on Friday, in a late bid to derail reforms that would hurt pharmaceutical companies' earnings.

The Canadian government announced final regulations that give new powers to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) earlier this month, and published them in an official register on Wednesday. They go into force on July 1, 2020.

"Our position is that the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to regulate the prices of medicines and manage healthcare systems, which has always been provincial jurisdiction," Merck Canada said, adding the new rules "will slow and limit Canadians' access to new breakthrough medicines."

Health Canada, Canada's federal health department, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The filing ratchets up a confrontation between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government and the pharmaceutical industry ahead of an Oct. 21 national election.

Drugmakers, represented in Canada by lobby group Innovative Medicines Canada, have argued that lower prices would delay drug launches, reduce investment in life sciences and drive new drug trials out of the country. (Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto; additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)