Expensive Prescriptions Should be Election Issue

This week, White Coat Black Art has a revealing look at how new prescription drugs get on provincial formularies. On our show, we had an interview with Dr. Andreas Laupacis, former chair of he Canadian Expert Drug Advisory Committee. It weighs the costs and benefits of each new drug and recommends whether or not the provinces should pay for it.

Dr. Laupacis said the consequences of his committee's decision weighed heavily on his mind, especially at times when it recommended that the provinces not put a drug on formulary. In the past, drugs not put on formulary were still within the price range of individuals willing to fork over the cash.

Not anymore. New pharmaceuticals are becoming more and more expensive. For instance, a new cancer drug that gives a patient and extra three months of life might cost thousands of dollars per month -- far beyond the price range of most of us.

All of which is to say that the skyrocketing cost of new prescription drugs should be an election issue. The Romanow Commission recommended a national catastrophic pharmacare program. The Liberal Party of Canada has pledged to set aside $900 milliion per year for a catastrophic drug program. Both the NDP and the Green Party have promised to phase in a universal prescription drug plan. The ruling Conservative Party of Canada has promised to implement a National Pharmaceutical Strategy, which includes a common review of drugs. Most parties are promising to achieve drug cost savings through common purchasing.

Enough talk already. Expensive prescription drugs have laid waste to the concept of universal health care in Canada. If you're rich, you can afford $20,000 a year for the latest chemo or arthritis wonder drug. We need to fix this problem now.

Either that, or we'll be plumbing the depths of 'Hinterland's Who's Who' of Prescription Drugs for the best cure from 1957. Have a listen to our Hinterland entry on Prozac.

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