Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Prescription Drug Costs: The Campbell-Clark Government, Then And Now



Update: At bottom of post

Christy Clark is mad.

So mad that she's actually written a letter.

Yes, that's right!

A letter.

To the Feds about her real, actual....ummmm...you know.....uhhhhh.....'opposition' to potential changes to patent drug laws that will raise the cost of prescription drugs.

The CP had the story, which is now getting wider play, a couple of days ago:

OTTAWA — The provincial premiers have undertaken a letter-writing campaign to demand compensation from the federal government for any increase in drug costs that might come of a free trade agreement with Europe.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she and other premiers have each written to Ottawa urging federal negotiators not to agree to anything that would drive up the cost of pharmaceuticals....
{snippety doo-dah}
...The provinces say they would amount to longer patent protection for brand-name pharmaceuticals, driving up medical bills for provincial drug plans, employer plans and individuals alike.
“The premiers are all concerned about the impact that it could have on pharmaceutical drugs and the cost of pharmaceutical drugs,” Clark said, adding that the premiers discussed the issue at their last meeting this winter...

But here's the thing about 'concern' expressed in letters....

It's extremely cheap and easy to throw around.

And often, in the end, it is worthless.

Conversely, Ms. Clark's own government, back in the end times of the Gord (i.e. late 2010), killed mortally-wounded* one of the best provincially-funded mechanisms known to mankind that both assured the efficacy of taxpayer-funded prescription drugs and kept their costs down by acting as an independent, evidence-based fact-finder that separated the wheat from the patent medicine-hawkers' chaff.

And did I mention that it also saved lives?

It was called the 'Therapeutics Initiative'. And it is my contention, and the contention of others, that it was killed precisely because it was too darned effective, and thus cut into the hawkers' profit margins.

The Victoria Times-Colonist described the murder of the 'TI' this way:

"The last act in a nasty vendetta has finally played out. Premier Gordon Campbell's government has decided to kill B.C.'s only independent drug review agency. And not just kill it, but bury it in an unmarked grave.

The agency involved is called the Therapeutics Initiative. Based at the University of British Columbia, it evaluates new drugs that come on the market.

The Therapeutics Initiative saves taxpayers $50 million annually by finding cheaper alternatives. Largely thanks to its efforts, B.C. has the lowest drug costs in the country, despite offering some of the best coverage.

Moreover, the Therapeutics Initiative runs on a shoestring budget. The agency gets $1 million a year. That means it generates a 50 to one return on investment.

Finally, its researchers have been credited with saving 500 lives by issuing timely warnings about suspect medications. 

When the new anti-inflammatory product Vioxx came out, the agency discovered a link with increased heart attack rates. As a result, although Vioxx was approved across most of North America, it was kept off the shelves in B.C......


Now that you know what Ms. Clark's government has actually 'done', do you think what she now 'says' in her letter is even worth the cost of the paper it was printed on?


Put another way, as is so often the case with this particular politician, if she really wants to actually do something rather than just garnering column inches, evening news mentions, and/or photo-ops, why doesn't she just reinstate full funding for the Therapeutics Initiative right here and right now?

On the off-chance that there are PAB-Bots reading this (and we know you are out there - you are, after all, our biggest demo) who have difficulty with words like, say, 'efficacy'....Well....Here's the link.
*Update: Technically the TI is still alive....Mortally wounded due to funding cuts by the CC-GC government, yes, but still breathing....Thanks to the folks from the 'Seniors At Risk Coalition' for contacting me off-line about this.



Anonymous said...

Yes, you hit the nail on the head RossK, especially:

"But here's the thing about 'concern' expressed in letters....

It's extremely cheap and easy to throw around.

And often, in the end, it is worthless."

Just like the ombudsperson's report, nothing but hot air that will result in the appointment of yet another watchdog (seniors advocate) and, you guessed it, more hot air! How is one more watchdog on the pile of watchdogs that we already pay for going to make a difference?

It all sounds good, but them's just words. People are so gullible. No wonder we're in the pickle we're in.

Eleanor Gregory said...

Wine, preferably Chardonnay, is not a prescription drug.