A 65-year-old man notices he's feeling more tired lately. He's gaining weight and losing muscle. He can't get as many erections, and generally feels foggy and unwell. His family doctor takes some blood tests and rules out thyroid problems, high cholesterol and blood sugar issues. The only finding is low testosterone -- but that's a normal part of aging, right?
If Canada is to implement national pharmacare, surely we want to know more about the drugs we'll be paying for. To this end, we must tackle a pre-existing challenge: we must open up the evidence our drug regulator houses concerning drug safety and effectiveness. For decades Health Canada has kept that information confidential at the behest of drug manufacturers. This practice limits the ongoing evaluation of a drug's safety and effectiveness and, in turn, provincial and territorial governments' decision-making about which drugs to pay for, not to mention physicians and patients who make decisions about which drugs to prescribe and take.
Despite recent headlines, Canadian rates of suicide and attempted suicide have remained largely unchanged over the last several decades. What has changed is that we've seen increasing rates of suicide in the Canadian military recently, after stable rates for decades. The problem of suicide is not limited to the military in Canada; indigenous populations, especially in northern remote communities, have high rates of suicide. We need a unified approach across provincial and federal sectors to reduce suicides in the military, among veterans and civilians.
Using non-beneficial medications or failing to offer comfort medications to chronically ill patients is potentially harmful, time-consuming and simply bad medical care. Unnecessary or unwarranted medical interventions, including medications, are also costly to the healthcare system. It's time to embrace new ways of thinking.
Since 2009, Health Canada has taken the position that e-cigarettes containing nicotine are illegal. But out on the streets, Health Canada is simply being ignored. There's a brisk trade in vaping supplies including nicotine. Much of the new legislation might be found unconstitutional if challenged in the courts. Nicotine addicts who still use tobacco as a delivery method are suffering harm to their health that now appears to be quite unnecessary.
Today, doctors' offices are inundated with people who have been harmed more than helped by these drugs. Thousands more are dead. And yet the marketing continues, with pain specialists and advocacy groups opposing moves to curtail opioid prescription, their efforts financed by the very companies that make these drugs.
You will know well from history that real change won't happen by providing more federal money with unconditional transfers.Real change will require helping provinces to shift the focus of our health system away from those who are relatively well resourced to new areas of care, such as essential pharmaceuticals and homecare.
I was a hard rock miner at the time and fortunately my union, the United Steelworkers, had an Employee Assistance Program whose staff guided me to the treatment I needed. They accepted me as a person who has a problem, not a problem person, and put me on the road to recovering my sobriety and my dignity.
The glaring gaps in drug coverage for Canadian children are made stranger by the economic dimensions of the issue. Children's health care represents a drop in the ocean of health care budgets -- extending universal drug coverage to children would constitute a small fraction of total pharmaceutical spending.
I recently attended a mental health first aid course in order to further educate myself on the various mental illness disorders, the consequences of their severity and their overall prevalence in the population -- My eyes were opened to an entire population of our Canadian people whose rate of suicide was too horrifying to further ignore. As statistics related to aboriginal suicides were listed, I realized that this war being waged against the stigma of mental illness is but one of the many battles that will need to be addressed honestly in order to understand the magnitude of the affliction our mentally ill population is facing. As communities of aboriginals are fighting an invisible disease, society can dismiss the reality of the stigma by citing drugs and alcohol as the weak link in this people's history.
Fentanyl stole from me, from my family and from countless others across Canada. I've had items stolen from me before. In high school, someone broke into my locker and took my iPod. I remember my mom telling me, "Life goes on." Last year, someone stole funds from my bank account. Life goes on. Sometimes, though, it doesn't. On February 28, 2015, my older brother took what he thought was an Oxycontin tablet while he was out partying. He went home, he went to bed and he never woke up.
Why not show the seedy, disgusting underbelly and sickening adverse effects drugs have on us feeble humans? Images of a deviated septum, busted arm veins, chronic bleeding noses, rotten teeth, fetal effects, undernourished human bodies, etc. Horrifying images of what drug use has on the human body. Visceral images that make one think "that's repulsive, I'll never do that." We usher in a movement that illustrates and encourages dialogue about the revolting face of what drugs do: destroy the human spirit, decay our bodies, ruin families, and ultimately lead us to an early grave. There is NO glamour in drug use, no matter what Kanye is singing about.
Cities have to spend this money, taken from local taxpayers, because Canada's medicare system is the only universal, public health care system among developed countries that does not include universal coverage of prescription drugs. It is not wrong for cities to care for their employees. But leaving these costs to the cities makes about as much sense as requiring every homeowner to maintain the roads and infrastructure surrounding their property. Here's why.
A new study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal with health economist Steve Morgan as lead author argues a national universal care drug program would not result in substantial tax increases. It seems the time is ripe to finally complete our universal system of public healthcare coverage by adding a national public drug plan. If anything, these cautions should serve as guideposts to make sure a new national drug plan is not only effective but also designed in a fiscally sustainable manner.