Marc-André Gagnon, assistant professor at Carleton University, argues in a recent article that more than 80 per cent of new drugs entering the market are merely carbon copies of existing drugs -- commonly called "me-too" or "follow-on" drugs -- without any real therapeutic advance. Such criticisms, however, reveal a complete ignorance of the nature of the innovation process in the pharmaceutical industry.
Marc-André Gagnon, assistant professor at Carleton University. Gagnon, a long-time critic of the pharmaceutical industry, is concerned that overall drug expenditures are higher in Canada than in other developed countries. Gagnon's analysis is flawed in several respects.
A conference was held a few weeks ago in Ottawa to discuss yet again the adoption of a pan-Canadian government-run drug insurance plan that would cover prescription drug costs for the entire population. Such a program would instead risk increasing the burden currently weighing down public finances. Such a plan would not only entail extra costs for taxpayers, but would do nothing to change governments' current propensity to restrict and delay access to new drugs. Foreign experience can teach us much about the dangers of adopting a monopolistic drug insurance system in Canada.
How much a society spends on health care has not been found to be directly related to any health outcome tested. A society that spends so much on health care that it cannot or will not spend adequately on other health-enhancing activities may actually be reducing the health of its population. If a country wants to see significant improvements in its population health, the best public policy is to eliminate poverty.