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Alan Cassels

Drug policy researcher, University of Victoria and expert advisor,

Alan Cassels is a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria and an expert advisor with, a comprehensive and non-partisan online resource designed to help journalists covering health policy issues in Canada
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Fighting The Over-medication Of Canadian Seniors

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.
05/26/2016 10:56 EDT
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Our Opioid Epidemic Is A Symptom Of Pharma's Alarming Influence

Critics have begun pointing the finger at the medical system and its prescribers -- well-meaning doctors and specialists who've been giving too many patients excessively powerful opioid medications to deal with modest pain. But we can dig deeper and look at the relationship between medical education and pharmaceutical company influence as a significant contributing factor.
05/09/2016 10:17 EDT

National Pharmacare Isn't the Answer

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.
07/07/2015 05:31 EDT
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Why Do Canadian Employers Waste $5 billion a Year on Inefficient Drug Coverage?

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.
02/06/2015 12:36 EST
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Sexual Dysfunction Drugs For Women Are About Profit, Not Equality

The main problem is that no one seems to be able to precisely define "female sexual dysfunction" and the "disease" for which a pill might be warranted. Being too tired for sex? Being uninterested in the lout who wears sweatpants around the house? Living with a Neanderthal that doesn't know how to do laundry? There is not yet a pill for that but that hasn't stopped some in the drug industry from trying to characterize low sexual interest into a disease.
10/18/2014 05:03 EDT
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Proof That the Angelina Jolie Effect Is a Real Thing

Certainly women are driven to ask about genetic testing given a strong fear of breast cancer and a strong belief that early testing saves lives, but USPSTF feared many of the new customers lining up for the test would be classified as the "worried well" who would be unlikely to carry the rare genetic mutation and hence would receive no benefit from being screened.
09/17/2014 05:39 EDT
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The Breast Cancer Foundation That Ignores Science

"Mammograms save lives," read the headline from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. My heart sank. Not only is this headline unlikely to be true, it's possibly dangerous. Recent research is adding up to what I would call a wholesale re-questioning of the need for mammography based on the fact that the overall benefits seem to be vanishingly small and the harms -- including unnecessary cancer scares, biopsies and surgeries -- considerable.
05/13/2014 12:43 EDT

What the "Angelina Jolie Effect" Means for Breast Cancer Screening

Angelina Jolie was told she was in a "higher risk" category for breast cancer and after hearing she carried the bad genes, she went ahead with a double mastectomy. She then wrote about it in the New York Times. The U.S. experts, perhaps responding to this craziness, have come out recommending that women with a family history "not associated with an increased risk for mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes," should decidedly not seek routine genetic counseling or testing. The fact that women are driven to ask about genetic testing reflects our celebrity-obsessed culture, a strong fear of breast cancer and a somewhat earnest grasp of the "better safe than sorry" mantra which consumes many of us.
01/22/2014 07:51 EST

Designer Drugs: You're Really Paying for the Name

In Canada the drug industry spends roughly $3 billion per year marketing its products, two-thirds of which goes towards the salaries of the sales reps who visit our physicians regularly, and the drug samples they use to enhance their one-on-one learning sessions.
03/12/2012 12:42 EDT

Diabetes: Profits Before Evidence

What if most of the bleeding and checking blood sugar levels is a waste of time, does almost nothing to control your diabetes, makes you anxious or depressed and threatens the sustainability of the public health-care system?
06/11/2011 09:48 EDT