Doctors need to know the cost of the drugs they prescribe

Patients who can't afford to buy the drugs they need may face life-altering consequences. Michael talks to Dr. Iris Gorfinkel, who says authorities must mandate drug price transparency.
(The Associated Press/Patrick Sison)
Listen13:52

Canadian doctors write tens of thousands of prescriptions every year.

But Dr. Iris Gorfinkel says many doctors prescribe drugs without knowing how much it will cost to purchase them.

That can have serious repercussions — not just for their patients' physical and mental health, but for the healthcare system as a whole.

As a family physician, Dr. Gorfinkel has unknowingly prescribed drugs her patients can't afford, and witnessed the life-altering consequences.

When one of her patients stopped taking medication for a heart condition because she couldn't afford to keep paying for the drugs, she had a heart attack. She was later discharged from the hospital on the same medication.

"They treated the heart attack, but they did not treat the primary problem — which was, how are we going to address this drug affordability problem?" she says.

(CBC)

Pharmacists will often fill a prescription with the cheaper generic version of a drug, but Dr. Gorfinkel says there can still be significant variation in the price of therapeutically equivalent drugs.

"I do not have a right to reach into your wallet and tell you you're going to be paying, literally, 3 times the price just because that was the drug on my mind at the time," she says.

Dr. Gorfinkel is now lobbying the Ontario Ministry of Health and the fledgling national pharmacare advisory council to embed drug prices in electronic medical records.

She believes that if doctors see drug prices, it will improve patient care and increase access to affordable treatments.

"I think that what's going to happen over time is that doctors are going to see it, learn it, and change it," she says.

Click 'listen' at the top of the page to hear Michael's interview with Dr. Iris Gorfinkel.