'Best Medicines Coalition' Does NOT Represent Patients Like Me!

This is a copy of a letter to the editor by Sharon Batt & Keith Newman published in the Hill Times on December 13, 2017. Look I support paywalls, if they are affordable. So if you can, please subscribe to the Hill Times. But this letter is too important to languish behind one. Sharon was comfortable with me reprinting it, hopefully the Hill Times will forgive me.

Health Committee ought to put Canadians’ needs first, not big pharma

Hill Times
PUBLISHED: Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 12:00 AM

The pharmaceutical industry clearly has a vested interest in the details of a pharmacare plan, now under consideration by the House Health Committee. So do Canadians whose health depends on prescription drugs. But are their interests the same?

Plenty of evidence says they’re not. But you wouldn’t know that from the brief that a coalition representing about two-dozen Canadian patients’ organizations submitted to the committee.

MPs on the committee spent the last year and a half holding public hearings on a national pharmacare program. A brief from the Best Medicines Coalition fails to declare that much of the funding that the coalition and many of its members receive comes from the pharmaceutical industry.

The coalition calls for a plan that covers drugs for “all chronic, episodic, or acute conditions.” But we think drug policy should challenge, not embrace, the “pill for every ill” mentality. Many visits to physicians for common health problems end with a prescription, even when non-pharmacological approaches are more appropriate and safer.

The coalition calls for access to a “full array of approved medications, including...more recently approved advancements,” even though nine out of 10 new drugs approved today show no therapeutic benefits over existing drugs.

The coalition warns that “access delayed is access denied.” But rapid access has led to the approval of drugs that are neither effective nor safe for the specified conditions.

The websites of several of the coalition’s members list funders that include drug-makers Amgen Canada, AstraZeneca Canada, Eli Lily, Hoffman-LaRoche, Merck, Novartis, and Pfizer. This support is clearly a conflict of interest for a coalition dedicated to ensuring a voice for Canadian patients and to improving patient outcomes.

A national public drug plan should only include safe and therapeutically effective drugs. It requires an effective bargaining tool to obtain drugs at reasonable prices. The Health Committee should look beyond the coalition’s industry-friendly submission and recommend a plan that truly serves the interests of all Canadians.

Sharon Batt, Author of Health Advocacy Inc.: How Pharmaceutical Funding Changed the Breast Cancer Movement

Keith Newman, Canadian Health Coalition board member (representing the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada)

Bill Swan2 Comments