George Frey / Reuters
Canadians pay some of the world's highest prescription drug prices, said the U.S. senator.
Mark Blinch / Reuters
What is needed across Canada now is a legal regime that has real consequences for pharmaceutical companies.
Canadian negotiators must be ready to deflect the tired rhetoric of U.S. trade negotiators and the pharmaceutical industry lobby.
stevecoleimages via Getty Images
Counterfeit drugs are one of the greatest threats to patient safety and the pharmaceutical industry. Smart packaging is capable of addressing the issue.
DragonImages via Getty Images
Ontario has been the site of dueling pharmacare proposals and Canadians are the victors. At the end of April, the opposition NDP promised universal drug coverage for a list of essential medicines. Not to be outdone, the ruling Liberal party announced universal coverage for all drugs on the provincial formulary for youth under 25 years of age. Most health policy experts praised both proposals, myself included.
Niyazz via Getty Images
Canada is an outlier for not having a universal program for prescription drugs for children and for allowing wide inter-provincial variation in how public drug plans serve children. This means that many families can't afford to pay for the essential medicines that their children need to get healthy, stay healthy and grow up healthy.
Cecilie_Arcurs via Getty Images
A recent conference in Toronto addressed whether Australia has anything to teach Canada about how Canadian medicare might evolve. There are a number of areas where Australia's experience might prove helpful. The first is the public funding of pharmaceuticals.
stevecoleimages via Getty Images
Several national commissions on Canada's health care system have recommended adding prescription drugs to our publicly funded universal medicare system. No federal government has ever acted on those recommendations. Not yet, anyhow. By creating 'pharmacare-junior,' Premier Wynne and Minister Hoskins are in essence calling on the federal government to help finish the job and create a pharmacare program for all Canadians of all ages.
Boston Globe via Getty Images
As Canadians, we are proud of our universal health care system, which provides publicly-funded essential doctor and hospital care based on need and not ability to pay. Unfortunately, our health system falls short when it comes to prescription medication.
stevecoleimages via Getty Images
Across Canada, the tragic spike in opioid-related deaths has brought to national attention the large and complex issue of drug use and misuse. As fentanyl-related overdoses are gripping the country, there is a connected, but separate crisis of doctor-prescribed opioids being increasingly used on a regular, long-term basis.
Many drugs prescribed to seniors have either not been adequately studied for this age group or have not been formally approved for the conditions they are being prescribed to treat. They are sometimes prescribed without any evidence they are safe and effective for them, and in some cases, even when they are known to present a possible risk (antipsychotics prescribed to older patients with dementia, for example).
tibor13 via Getty Images
Health care and drug coverage is often used as a political football, and coverage of medicines can make an easy and convenient target as a place to find short-term cost savings despite the need for a broader discussion on overall system reform.
Nadia Richie Studio via Getty Images
When the topic of health care and pharmaceutical drugs comes up, the discussion usually turns sooner or later to the high prices we pay. At the upcoming meeting of the Council of the Federation in Yukon, the Canadian health care system will certainly be on the agenda. But a national pharmacare plan would do more harm than good.
DNY59 via Getty Images
It's natural for any industry to undergo changes, but few industries have experienced as many rapid changes as the pharmaceutical and health care ones. To remain relevant among these digitally wired consumers, big pharmaceutical companies have adjusted, making visible efforts to grab the audience's attention through web and mobile presence.
Julie Toy via Getty Images
The case of 'too much medication' in Canadian seniors is finally starting to be recognized for the serious problem it has become. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of too many prescription drugs because aging affects their ability to process medications.
CaiaImage via Getty Images
The National Post has published several articles and letters lately that have been harshly critical of naturopathic doctors and alternative medicine. The latest one to catch my eye was the letter on this page by Dr. Susan Piccinin, a medical doctor from Ancaster, Ontario.
Jupiterimages via Getty Images
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?
Liz O. Baylen via Getty Images
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.
Wavebreakmedia Ltd via Getty Images
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.
Vstock via Getty Images
For the past three years World AIDS Day on December 1st has been themed, "Getting to zero," which means zero new HIV Infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. Even with these promising new developments however, we cannot underestimate the challenges ahead in responding the AIDS epidemic. More than 71 thousand Canadians were estimated to be living with HIV in 2011 and there were 3,175 new HIV infections. Worldwide, there are a staggering 36 million people living with AIDS.
Shutterstock / Pruser
Financial barriers to filling necessary prescriptions result in worse health for patients. They also result in increased use of taxpayer-finance hospital and medical care. In other words, they don't save anybody money in the long run.
Ilya Andriyanov via Getty Images
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.
What the report, Improving Medicines for Children in Canada confirmed was what pediatricians in the field already know -- 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.
DTKUTOO via Getty Images
Provinces are clearly voting with their budgets, going slow and low on approvals and coverage of new therapies. Canada is not wrong to be prudent in taking our time to decide how, or if, a new drug needs to be covered -- a precautionary approach is just the smart way to go.
The overwhelming majority of these incredibly common infections are caused by viruses -- that is, they will not respond to antibiotics -- so I don't routinely offer antibiotic treatments. When patients hear they won't be getting an antibiotic many become surprised and often upset. I then spend time counselling them about why antibiotics are, in most cases, the wrong treatment choice.
Improving the climate for clinical trials will also attract research investment which will in turn create jobs in healthcare and within the knowledge economy for Canadians. Clinical trials are the building blocks for innovation in healthcare and allow Canadians access to life changing innovations
Shutterstock / 18percentgrey
Bigger does not always equal better; sometimes bigger means dumber. Any national pharmacare program would need an absolute firewall to protect it from the inevitable politics of drug coverage, otherwise you'd be left with even more irrational and expensive drug coverage decisions.
Eight provincial health ministers organized a roundtable with healthcare professionals and academic experts on June 8 to discuss how we should transform drug coverage in Canada and several are now calling for a national pharmacare program. The question now is, what kind?
luchschen via Getty Images
Businesses care about the health and well-being of the Canadian workforce. Employees that can afford the medicines as and when prescribed will be healthier, happier, and more productive. In this election year, it is time for Canada's business leaders to call for universal, public pharmacare.
Phil Ashley via Getty Images
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.
Cultura/Jason Butcher via Getty Images
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.