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.
The federal government plays a vital role in pharmaceutical drug regulation. We have many reasons to be proud of the systems for drug safety already in place in Canada. Yet there's room for significant improvement. Canadians deserve safe, effective, accessible and reliable pharmaceutical drugs when they need them. The only way to do this is through perpetually improved systems framed by transparency and openness.
In a public healthcare system, too often system failures end up as fodder for Question Period battles rather than impetus for learning. When investments have been made in new models of health service funding and delivery that don't work out, it can be difficult to proclaim failure as a means to move toward success.
Employers want their drug plans to be as competitive as those offered by other employers. So what happens when the norm is to cover all new drugs at any cost, even if the drugs do not provide additional therapeutic value? Well, the end result is that everyone buys "generous" plans instead of increasing employee compensation. Everyone we spoke with agrees about the need to educate employees and employers alike. And in fact, everyone agrees (even insurers) that exorbitant drug costs are a big issue for Canadians.
Although advertising of prescription medicines to the public is generally banned in Canada on public health grounds, shifts in administrative policy have allowed two types of ads since late 2000: "reminder" ads that mention a brand name, but make no health claims; and "help-seeking" ads that mention a condition, but do not state a brand or company name. We have identified six main weaknesses in how Health Canada regulates this advertising.
The Liberal government of New Brunswick appears to be stepping back from the brink of mandatory prescription drug insurance. And so they should. The drug plan chosen by the Conservatives was designed on a false premise: that the private sector can better manage things than government can. In many sectors, that might be true. But not in health care.
Rather than placing a tax on health needs -- as income-based drug plans do -- Ontario should consider a more positive road to universal pharmacare. Specifically, it should consider tax financing a universal drug benefit program that would give non-seniors the same coverage elderly residents enjoy today.
Dr. Mel Borins wants to you to be healthy and he wants you equipped with more than just your family doctor's orders. A family physician and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, Borins is a leading expert in health and wellness who has advocated evidence-based, alternative medicine for decades.
A 2013 EKOS poll showed that 78 per cent of Canadians are in favour of establishing a universal pharmacare program in Canada. In spite of self-serving lobby groups who insist that the current system is working well and should not be reformed, establishing a national drug plan is the best thing to do for patients, for employers, for employees, for taxpayers, and for the Canadian economy.
he false notion that opioids are safe, effective treatments for chronic pain was inculcated by the companies that manufacture them, with self-styled "experts" preaching this gospel to front-line physicians. Incredibly, this happened in the absence of good evidence that the benefits of long-term opioid use outweigh the risks.
Vaccines as we know them are on the way out. On the way in are personalized, precision vaccines, created through a new discipline called vaccinomics that promises to protect a higher proportion of the population at far lower cost and without the real and potential harms that mass vaccination programs inflict on some people. Vaccinomics -- vaccinology informed by genomics -- turns the traditional vaccine model on its head by making the individual the starting point, rather than the end point, in the vaccine creation process. Vaccines work -- or don't -- on the basis of cumulative interactions in our bodies driven by a host of immune response genes and other factors.
How do you strike a balance when treating children with drugs in the absence of such evidence? Most people might be surprised to learn that much of the medications given to children in Canada have never been adequately studied or even formally approved for the conditions they are commonly prescribed to treat.
Recently, a concerned parent pointed me to a film being shown to his child's sixth grade class, called The Story of Stuff. The movie, created in 2007, depicts a world in which big corporations, in cahoots with big government, pretty much destroy the entire planet and maliciously poison the environment for their own filthy ends. This is merely one example of how The Story of Stuff misleads.
Our country needs a pharmaceuticals strategy that's more than just low-cost drug coverage. Unfortunately, when the Harper government -- which has consistently treated collaboration with the provinces and territories as both obscene and objectionable -- came to power, it walked away from a national pharmaceuticals strategy. As a result, instead of being eight years in on making prescription drugs more accessible, and safer, millions in our country -- as many as one-in-ten Canadians -- cannot afford the medication they need.
As part of their struggle with budget realities and the growing cost of health care, Canada's provinces continue to work on bulk purchasing agreements for pharmaceuticals as a way to save money. Unfortunately, the recent release from the Council of the Federation (the council of Canada's premiers) suffers from the typical one-sided approach that characterizes much of the drug policy discussion. Yes, there are up front savings to be had. But there's no such thing as a free lunch.
Bulk purchasing of pharmaceuticals has attracted significant attention of late as Canada's provinces work to balance access to medicines and their benefits with budgetary realities. Unfortunately for Canadians, insufficient consideration is being given to the tradeoffs and risks associated with bulk purchasing agreements.
New medicines are a central component of modern medical care. Unfortunately for Canadians, our federal government takes an approach that is slower than others, unnecessarily costly for taxpayers, and is ultimately of questionable benefit to Canadians. Canadian approvals for market access to new drugs take longer than similar approvals in both Europe (under the European Medicines Agency) and the U.S. (under the FDA). Specifically, the median approval time was longer in Canada than in the other jurisdictions in four of the past five years. But would faster approval of new drugs expose us to greater risk? Perhaps.
When it comes to health care, we can clearly see that a cost-cutting approach only works for a while. Given the giant demographic shift underway now, we aren't going to save our way to great health care. Put simply, innovation is not a choice. Improving Canadian competitiveness demands it. Canadians in need of a more sustainable and effective health care system deserve it.