Thursday, May 11, 2006

A needed prescription

The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports on the costs of prescription drugs in Canada. And for all the complaints about the increasing costs of health care, it's worth noting that the costs are skyrocketing most in an area with relatively little public funding:
Canadian spending on medical drugs rose to almost $25-billion last year, up 11 per cent over the previous year, in a trend that critics say can't be sustained.

Drugs — mainly prescription drugs — continue to be the fastest-growing category of health spending as they have been for years, says the Canadian Institute for Health Information...

Drug spending reached 17.5 per cent of total health spending, double the figure for 1985. But Canada remains below the median of 13 OECD countries in the amount of drug spending covered by governments.

Total per capita spending was estimated at $770 last year, but there were big variations across the country. Public-sector spending on prescribed drugs ranged from $194 per capita in Prince Edward Island to $341 in Quebec.
The article isn't without at least one viable solution to some of the problems in drug costs...though it's anybody's guess as to how long it'll take the Cons to become interested in dealing with the issue:
Manitoba Health Minister Tim Sale is pushing for progress on a national pharmacare program that first ministers promised in their 2004 health accord.

“Part of the whole discussion about fiscal imbalance is compounded by the fact that the feds approve these drugs, and in the case of patented pharmaceuticals, they set the price,” he said in an interview.

“We think they should then have part of the delivery responsibility.”...

Advocates of a national pharmacare program say it would help control costs by uniting the buying power of the provinces and by ensuring that only cost-effective drugs are used.
With the pharmacare idea having already formed part of an agreement among all provinces, there wouldn't be too much concern about intrusion into provincial jurisdiction...and there obviously isn't much of a case for the status quo from the standpoint of cost-effectiveness. But the previous agreement notwithstanding, it'll take some strong leadership from the federal level to get the needed program in place.

That presents an opportunity for the Cons to be seen as a viable government capable of improving Canada's health system....assuming they're willing to take a lead role, and acknowledge the positive contribution a federal government can make to health care. The question now is whether the Cons want to make that kind of improvement a priority.

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