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Time to Control/Regulate Rx Drug PROFITS!

November 20th, 2017 · 26 Comments

It’s unfortunate, but increasingly true: pharmaceutical companies with patents or a cornered market on prescription drugs are demanding outrageous prices for their products … well beyond reasonable profit levels and also beyond not only individual consumers’ ability to pay, but that of governments as well.

It’s time … in return for those MONOPOLIES given them under legislation … for them to defend the prices they then charge, to prove they are not GOUGING for extortion-level profits.

Take the case of Lilia Zaharieva, the 30-year-old University of Victoria student who suffers from the debilitating, and even life-threatening effects of cystic fibrosis.

Lilia had been taking, among other medications, a new drug Orkambi developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which she swears has substantially helped her fight off her disease. And without it, she believes she will face total lung failure within two years.

But the drug costs $250,000 a year … and Lilia has now  run out of coverage under her private insurance plan, and the drug is NOT covered under BC Pharmacare and Health Minister Adrian Dix has refused to budge.

“Orkambi was reviewed by Canada’s Common Drug Review board and the Drug Benefit Council, Dix said, both of which recommended that the drug not be funded by PharmaCare programs across the country. This is because the two expert bodies were not given sufficient evidence to support Orkambi’s therapeutic benefits. “So it’s a difficult situation, but we get advice from experts in the field and their expert advice was followed by [former health minister] Terry Lake who, in March, decided against listing this drug in B.C.”, reported the Victoria Times-Colonist.

Who could not sympathize, empathize and want to help Lilia ???

But how much can any public health/Pharmacare plan shell out for a single drug to help a single patient?

Compassion might say there should be no limit … but let’s keep it real: there are more than 4,000 Canadians suffering from the disease … and hundreds of millions of dollars are already spent on other medications treating CF … not including more than $150 million already devoted on research etc.

How much can society pay? Is there ANY limit?

I have no idea how much it cost Vertex to research, develop, test and put and maintain Orkambi on the market … but if it is protected by patent and they charge $250,000 a year per patient, they should have to justify that price … and profit level.

If we DO cover the $250,000 annual cost of this drug/treatment for Lilia, what about other CF patients … and what about those suffering from other life-threatening diseases/maladies who also want or believe in other hugely expensive drugs that have NOT yet convinced regulating medical experts of their efficacy … or even those with proven success?

We all recall the infamous Martin Shkreli, whose firm acquired the rights and then raised the price of a long-existing but rare medication to treat life-threatening parasites from $13.50 to $750 a pill overnight. The huge public outcry reduced the price somewhat … but this was not the only case like that.

“Cycloserine, a drug used to treat dangerous multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, was just increased in price to $10,800 for 30 pills from $500 after its acquisition by Rodelis Therapeutics. Scott Spencer, general manager of Rodelis, said the company needed to invest to make sure the supply of the drug remained reliable. He said the company provided the drug free to certain needy patients,” the New York Times reported at the time.

“In August, two members of Congress investigating generic drug price increases wrote to Valeant Pharmaceuticals after that company acquired two heart drugs, Isuprel and Nitropress, from Marathon Pharmaceuticals and promptly raised their prices by 525 percent and 212 percent respectively. Marathon had acquired the drugs from another company in 2013 and had quintupled their prices ….”

(The last I saw, Vertex denied Lilia’s compassionate care appeal to cover the drug cost in her case.)

It all raises horrible, difficult questions and issues.

And I believe one way the federal government CAN act, and would enjoy public support, is by forcing pharmaceutical companies granted MONOPOLY patent protection for 15 years (used to be 10 years, but if I recall correctly, under Prime minister Mulroney’s Conservative government the patent period was extended to 15 years) to EXPLAIN/DEFEND their PROFIT margins on monopoly-protected drugs.

Of course, the cost of new drugs goes well beyond just production: some take years to research and can cost billions to develop/test etc.

Understandable.  BUT in return for such generous monopolies/write-offs/profits,  pharmaceutical companies should be willing/able to explain/defend their costs, prices … AND PROFIT MARGINS … to a non-political panel of medical, scientific experts and economists.

It’s clear that some are incapable ..or unwilling … to fairly police themselves.

And any company that charges $250,000 a year for a product for which WE gave them ANY patent/monopoly protection should be happy …okay, let’s settle for willing … to defend their pricing and profit margin in public..

Harv Oberfeld

(This is one we CAN take action on!  If you would like to take up this cause and issue, you can write to the various ministers involved:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: pm@pm.gc.ca

Federal Health Minister Ginette Taylor: hcminister.ministresc@canada.ca

Premier John Horgan: premier@gov.bc.ca

BC Health Minister Adrian Dix: HLTH.health@gov.bc.ca

Feel free to copy/paste the URL for this blog piece ….   http://harveyoberfeld.ca/blog/time-to-controlregulate-rx-drug-profits/  as a reference/recommendation they should follow up.

And pass it on …ask others you know to take up the call)

Tags: British Columbia · International · National

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dave Pasin // Nov 20, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Hi Harvey:

    Thank you for bring up a very difficult subject. As a developed and patent holder, I understand the need to recoup your development, study and commercialization costs and create fair return on the investment of stakeholders.

    However, I believe that companies have to also act responsibly when they develop, get approved and offer potentially life saving modalities. What’s the point in developing such products if they are unaffordable to those that need them.

    Government’s (despite being beholden to Pharma in too many ways to mention) also have a responsibility to ensure that vetted, verified and supported new products ensure Pharma justify their costs or create a program to ensure fair compensation whilst ensuring their citizens have access to medication that may save their lives.

    Gordon Gekko’s corporate philosophy of “greed is good” is alive in well in far too many areas of our lives as companies, bureaucracy and government can seemingly operate with impunity and trample the rights of people in too many ways over the past several decades.

    Those such as Lilia (whom I happen to know) and so many others deserve the same quality of life as you and I.

    A disease or debilitating malady is no reason to devalue a human life or deny an individual the medication needed for the opportunity to enjoy life, liberty and happiness (and good government if you’re Canadian). – See Stephen Hawking for details!

    The attitude of some in government (yes you Adrian Dix, Melanie Mark, et al) should be to help those you were elected to represent not hinder them due to your preconceived notions and animosity to various – insert cause or industry here.

    You were elected to rise above the noise, put your personal attitudes aside and ensure your citizens are protected and allowed to avail themselves of what should be a medical system with access to life saving medications.

    (Response: Nothing wrong with fair …even generous corporate profits: many of our RRSPs are built on that. BUT drug companies given monopolies should be prepared o explain their costs … and defend their profits on any particular drug. h.o.)

  • 2 Harry lawson // Nov 20, 2017 at 9:58 am

    HarveY,

    Another home run,

    Big pharma deserves a fair return for its investment. The key is fair.
    .
    I have several chronic health issues and at one time had over 25 different prescriptions in my blister pack. Today I am Rd free .

    Our govrermen has allowed big pharma to make minor changes to the ingredients of a drug thus giving a new patent yet it still cost pennies to make sold for dimes ,still cost pennies to make sells for dollars.

    What about world pricing? Drugs are cheaper in Mexico, South America, Cuba, same drug costlier in USA a bit cheaper in Canada etc.

    What expectations do we as patients bring to the party?

    Do we really expect governments to change drug policies when there is so much lobbying and party donations out there ?

    (Response: YES! Their influence here is not as great as in the US ..and a concerted pressure from voters and even prov govmts could lead Ottawa to act. h.o)

  • 3 G. Barry Stewart // Nov 20, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Finding the article has been tough (I wouldn’t put it past the drug company paying someone to relegate it to the 5oth page of an internet search) — but some time ago, CBS’s 60 Minutes had a study on drug pricing.

    Drug companies always throw out the cost of research and testing as major parts of their pricing.

    In one 60 Minutes example, there was a drug that cost 2¢ a pill for use with sheep, to control ticks.

    Someone discovered the drug was useful to fight a type of cancer and all of a sudden, the pill — when used for humans — shot up into the $$ per pill range.

    Dirt cheap to make, with all the initial development costs long since paid for, the company had found a way to milk new profits out of old tech.

    I can’t be sure of who made the human-use discovery. If it was a government-funded university, I’d say the 2¢ a pill pricing should have to stay (… or the health ministry should take out a membership at the CO-OP feed store!)

  • 4 RIsaak // Nov 20, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Firstly, a wonderful topic Harvey.

    My wife is a very tough cancer warrior. She has outlived all prognosis’ by over 150% at this point. I have made a very rewarding choice to be her care aid and advocate for over 5 years now. This has put all other matters in my life on hold and I personally do not regret this choice whatsoever.

    In the past 5 + years I’ve witnessed many questionable practices and programs in our journey through the maze of Canadian health care.

    Recently, due to my wife’s stubborn resolve to not capitulate to her disease, we have been informed that due to her longevity some of the benefits she has received from the Provincial Palliative plan (plan P is the term the medical folk use for it) are now going to be rescinded. Many of the drug costs are now reverting back to our extended health coverage provider. All but one medication are now being covered by extended, however one quite expensive one (I’m told the costs are around $50K/year) is not going to be covered. This medication is an injectable blood thinner which Plan P covers, but the extended formulary (sp) does not cover.

    My conundrum is given I save the health care system over 100K/year (approx cost for full care in a care facility), why are they de-funding on her thinners only due to her remarkable ability to not succumb to her disease. I have engaged many in the health field about how to proceed. The fact my wife’s mother recently passed due to blood clots 9complication of cancer) while on the exact same thinner now suggested as a replacement for the injectable which has been working rather well. This prospect has caused much grief and worry on my wife’s part, something I find rather distasteful. Apparently if you suceed in outliving your prognosis, the reward may be untold stress, much emotional grief and the knowledge that the health system we are told is so decent, sometimes and for some patients is anything but. My wife’s mental state is very compromised from all the chemo & radiation and the barrage of medications used to control her disease & the staggering number of side effects. The process of trying to get continued funding for this medication has been very draining and has caused much emotional stress. We have succeeded in getting funding continued til early Feb, but have been told we will be in for yet another battle to get it extended, a prospect I’m getting very tired of dreading (this funding mess has been a going concern for about a year now).

    Of course the manufacturer of the thinner has more than likely contributed to numerous political campaigns to protect their profit margins etc..

    There are a few others I know of who have had some grief obtaining funding for newer medications which are not funded or covered by drug formularies. The entire pharmaceutical community should make money, but at what level does their profit margin overtake basic human rights and proper dispensation of humanitarian, medical care?

    I have zero answers, I have many questions, I have more fears then confidence that this situation will trouble me & especially my wife when our thoughts could be far more positive and caring than dealing with funding for expensive medications.

    I have zero doubt the Federal govt. (which has undertaken a tact of serial cost cutting in medical transfers to the Provinces) wishes they could further cut these payments, while happily cashing campaign contribution checks from the Pharmaceutical companies who reap the rewards and seem very content to continue padding profit margins on the government’s dime.

    There will be much pissing & moaning from the Pharma community should any politician have the actual stones to try to tackle this issue. Thanks again Harvey for a very personal topic for our family.

    (Response: The government MUST get a grip on drug company prices and ensure that they are making reasonable profit … not gouging, blackmailing and extorting from sick, desperate people … and even governments under pressure to be compassionate. h.o)

  • 5 BMCQ // Nov 20, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    A Most Important Subject Harvey!

    RIsaak – 4

    Thank you for your caring, thoughtful, articulate, and courageous Post!

    Each and every Politician at the Federal and Provincial Government Levels right across the Country should have your Post and Harvey’s Analysis/Essay above as Mandatory Reading.

    That includes Premier Horgan, Adrian Dix, the rest of the NDP Cabiner, PM Justin and his Cabinet. Of course that includes the former B.C. Liberal Government Premier and the Cabinet.

    Until I read your Post I was prepared to offer opinions on the Big Pharma, Lobbying, Patents, Patent Terms, Government Regulations, Oversight, and the rest but your Story caused me to stop in my tracks and think a lot more about this whole very complex subject.

    Your Wife must have “The Heart of a Lion”!

    You are both very very Fortunate to have each other!

    I Salute you both!

  • 6 Gene The Bean // Nov 20, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    WAAAAY to much money going to right wing governments in the developed world from Big Pharma. They play the game well and have the resources, money and time (the one thing any really sick person doesn’t have) to wait out any “accidently’ elected progressive government.

    My view is there should be a federal government department attached to the Health portfolio that works directly with Big Pharma to ultimately set prices. You don’t get approval to release the drug until you have shown/proven your costs and the formula includes, as you have mentioned, a healthy profit margin.

    Digging the Corporatist heel into the throats of the sick and dying is a disgusting trait. Also, lets not have the wailing from the ‘right’ about “raising taxes” and ‘free enterprise’. You ‘circus entertainers’ need to join humanity.

    RIsaak #4 – sharing your situation and the strength of your wife to ‘not capitulate’ is heart warming. Thank you. You are both shining stars. I truly hope that you’re successful in your quest for appropriate coverage. Sincerely wishing you and your wife have many years of health and happiness ahead.

  • 7 Island Lookout // Nov 20, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    BC’S HEALTH CARE INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

    This scarey and largest of BC goverment ministries holds the rest of us in its “arms.” Often life or death.

    Stories of patients and their families crying out for help because life-saving drugs are unaffordable for them is heart-breaking in the extreme.

    Reading #4 RIsaak’ story is amazing, the strength of his family shows through inspite of seemingly insurmountable odds.

    Here is some of what he wrote:

    “…We have succeeded in getting funding continued til early Feb, but have been told we will be in for yet another battle to get it extended, a prospect I’m getting very tired of dreading (this funding mess has been a going concern for about a year now)…”

    I keep seeing news stories about such Catch 22s all too often on the News.

    This is not good enough all of you health care industry creatures.

    In the process of too-seldom trying to justify their incompetencies we also get to see Adrian Dix, our lost-at-sea health minister, ruminating on TV about costs and so on. He seems to care little for the “people’s” welfare.

    The man, who wished to be NDP premier in 2013, now shows the leadership ability of a dampened rag lying on a wet winter sidewalk.

    His predecessor Terry Lake was a bit more on the ball. Just a bit.

    I believe the ministers are puppets and the bureaucrats are the bosses. It’s their empire and “buzz off you elected freaks.”

    These suits show up at meetings in the minister’s office with the daily file that is filled with “cant’s” and “we’ll sees”.

    They’ll also mumble, “We can’t do this and can’t do that because of other more ‘urgent’ budget requirements.”

    What is the solution? How about the following:

    Add up the costs of the number of patients having to be in hospitals because they can’t afford these pills at home”.

    They would be small in number at any rate.

    Then add up the cost of providing all of them with their needed meds for the duration.

    My guess is THAT cost would be less than the hospitalization costs.

    Then the minister would have to meet with the drug makers.

    Offer them a forever gravy train of government money PROVIDED they sell these drugs (and all of the rest of them) to government at a substantial discount to the premium prices they now charge.
    It’ll be a “guaranteed income for life” granted by us taxpayers.

    I don’t know of a health minister anywhere in this land who has the jam to negotiate with these guys.

    I just don’t.

    And families like the RIsaak’s face withering fire on the so-called health “care” front lines and they’re running out of ammo…

    God bless them.

    (Response: I think you’re being unfair when you are critical of Health Minister Adrian Dix for “ruminating about costs and so on. He seems to care little of the “people’s” welfare.” It’s his job to ruminate about such things, and to keep in mind both that health spending is not unlimited AND the danger of setting a precedent by just covering outrageous-priced drugs. Do that and the number of EXTREMELY HIGH priced drugs will multiply tremendously. Better to have the appropriate government …ie the feds in this case … go after the drug prices and especially any indefensible profit margins on the worst offenders. h.o.)

  • 8 Lulymay // Nov 20, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    I, too remember when Mulroney decided it was a good idea to extend patents on pharmaceuticals here in Canada. I also remember when the Cons got voted out in a subsequent election and his Ministry of Health (can’t remember her name) lost her MP seat and voila! suddenly there she was working as the Canadian spokesperson for pharmaceutical corporations here in our fine country.

    She was challenged by media folks – who actually did their job in those days – as to why prices were being raised so much and so frequently in Canada and she went into her long spiel about the cost of developing, bla bla bla etc.

    Someone actually looked into what these corps spent on developing new drugs and found that Canadian corps spent substantially less than other countries. In fact they spent less than a country like Italy did.

    I can get 100 pills of 500mg Amoxicilin pills in Mexico for $6 US in Mexico whereas here in BC I must pay $10.50 for a drug store clerk to count out the pills and then add the Canadian retail price onto that. Ridiculous! I could name other drugs that are just the same — and this is over the counter and no need to see a medical doctor.

    US citizens take bus tours specifically set up as a day trip to Algadones from as far as at least Las Vegas and surrounding areas to purchase their drugs in Mexico at great cost savings. The US even had border guards handing out pamphlets to everyone returning from Mexico suggesting that these drugs were not safe. I asked our family doctor regarding safety and his advice was that all the drugs coming in meet the same standards and the only difference is what language is printed on the label.

    My understanding is that changing the current price structure here in Canada could only be accomplished if a Federal Drug Program was instituted and incorporated into the Canada Health Plan, but still be delivered by the individual provinces. I just don’t see many of our current politicians having an appetite for that. (It’s those darn political contributions that get in the way, you know. “Hook, line, sinker”

  • 9 Barry // Nov 20, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    The Fifth Estate a few months ago ran a story on New Zealand’s Pharmacare program.

    It showed that by negotiating bulk buying of drugs, costs dropped to a fraction of what the companies were charging before.

    One example even showed a drug made in Canada that [if memory servers right] that cost us here in Canada over $100 that cost New Zealand about $10!

    If a little country like New Zealand can do it, why can’t we? Could one answer be big money from Big Pharma me wonders?

    (Response: Interesting. Maybe there was more public pressure in New Zealand? Or a government not afraid o take on drug companies. Of course, there is a difference with newly minted prescription drugs protected by monopoly patents .. but I’d bet with bulk buying, and other drug sales by the same company, they would do a deal…if pushed. h.o.)

  • 10 BMCQ // Nov 20, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    This whole subject of Big Pharma and the cost of Life Saving and other Prescription Drugs to the General Public needs to be addressed and it is long past time for the Canadian Federal Government to show Leadership.

    We need to understand that Pharmaceutical Companies do indeed invest sometimes $ Millions into Research, Testing, Trials, Approvals and the rest and they earn the right to a decent return on those costs.

    They also earn a certain time to hold Patents and lengths of those patents on Drugs developed or it would not be worth while making the huge amount of $ Dollars Invested.

    Yes they have earned the right to a reasonable return for a reasonable amount of time but they have not earned the right to hold the General Population of Sick People and their Families to Ransom!

    We require the Federal Government to Hold Very Public Hearings on Pharma Care and the Costs to our Health Care System and the Sick People and their Families affected by irresponsible Drug Pharmaceutical Corporations and we need it now.

    Other Countries have managed to at least take some action on this, why can’t we?

    https://www.pharmacytoday.co.nz/news/2017/june-2017/23/take-a-look-at-new-zealand-has-cheapest-drug-prices-of-10-similar-countries,-study.aspx

    This has been discussed on several occasions but thee never seems to be the Political Will or Courage from Federal Governments to actually Legislate a Fix that works for Big Pharma, Tax Payers and most importantly Sick People and their Families.

    Yes, ALL of us one way or another are invested in Pharmaceuticals either through the Stock Market, Pensions, RRSP or any other vehicle but we must for once put the “Greater Good” ahead of all else and we must demand better Oversight from the federal Government.

    It does not make sense for each Province to address this, this is a federal Matter.

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/following-new-zealands-lead-on-generic-drugs-would-cut-costs-study-shows/article4573572/

    In fact thee is no reason Canada cannot enter into discussions with the U.S. Government to put pressure and legislation on Pharmaceutical Corporations to develop a Structure that ensures reasonable Profits, Patents, and Patent Lengths for those Companies that take the risk to develop important Drugs while at the same time that Legislation should ensure air Treatment and Access to Life Saving Pharmaceutical Drugs for the General Population.

    https://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-2017/rx-prescription-drug-pricing.html

    Of course no one wishes to take chances and allow irresponsible short cuts when developing, researching and taking important Pharma Drugs to Market but I am quite sure there are many better ways to cut “Red Tape” and ensure that the Patient is protected.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/19/trump-can-lower-prescription-drug-prices-now-commentary.html

    I am not advocating for a “Wild West’ anything goes with Pharmaceutical guy what You Like” at the Corner 7-11 but I was just in the EU and I was shown where they are able to purchase many different Drugs over the Counter after a word with the Pharmacist without much of a problem.

    I in fact had an incident where I required a Tetanus Shot and it was administered by a Pharmacist right in the Drug Store.

    Funny thing is, I was the only one that spoke English in the vicinity so I am only guessing it was a Tetanus Shot.

    The Injection must have worked because I am Healthy, Healed Up, No Infection or lasting Effects of any kind, and I am still Morally Bankrupt!

    A very timely topic Harvey.

    With a rapidly aging population, with perhaps another 2 Million Migrants and Immigrants coming to Canada over the next few years from third world nations where in some cases they get very little Medical Care if any we had better ready ourselves or we could and will face a Disaster.

    How many more can we contend with.

    Now the Big Question, where do we get the Political Leadership and Politicians to take this potential disaster on!

  • 11 BMCQ // Nov 20, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Alzheimer’s Treatment and Care is something else that the Rapidly Aging Canadian Population will need to face over the coming years.

    Are we Prepared?

    Can we afford the New and Upcoming Pharmaceuticals we will require going forward?

    https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/759542/dementia-alzheimers-disease-cure-memory-vascular-UK

  • 12 13.. // Nov 20, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    RIssak
    Your story is heartbreaking. Not much I can offer other than prayers and good wishes for your wife’s fight and your continued resolve and strength.
    My brother lost his wife to a miss diagnosed cancer and he also became her primary caregiver. You deserve all the help that our healthcare system can offer you.

  • 13 e.a.f. // Nov 20, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    You can’t have it both ways, the pharmaceutical industry is the “best” of capitalism. Its the free market system at its best. Now how are we to change that? If we change it for the pharmaceutical industry ought we not to change if in the housing industry. Most working people are priced out of the market in the lower mainland. We know people die from a lack of housing, they even freeze to death. They can’t afford what is out there.

    I would suggest the difference is the people who require the drugs and make the news are usually your middle class person you did pretty much every thing right and then they get sick and then can’t get better because of a corporation. Now the homeless, well they aren’t that cute, they aren’t middle class, etc.

    If you will let the homeless die on the streets and fields of Canada, why not those who are sick with “expensive” diseases. some conditions we were not able to “cure” a few year ago, now people survive. But some of those conditions, which have survival improvements, don’t cost $250K or $750K a year. At what point do we as a society say we just can’t afford it

    In my opinion we will not be able to force companies to do as you suggest and reduce their profit. They simply won’t sell in Canada. Its that easy.

    What we might want to give serious consideration to is putting the money into research to discover drugs the government/university/society actually owns. We don’t do it, we let private enterprise do it because hey, they do such a good job of all sorts of things, as we are told. Had governments put more money into university research drugs would not cost as much. Mulroney didn’t help either. It was a nice “gift” to his financial supporters, in my opinion. Subsequent governments simply kept “gifting”. Personally, I’d cut it back to 5 years, but then again we face the fact companies might simply not be interested in selling in Canada.

    It is unfortunate some will die, but if a drug is going to cost $750K a year we as a society can’t afford it. We’d have to take money from other areas, such as perhaps hospital care for a lot more people. Yes, its hard to say no to a nice young person in hospital, but trust me society doesn’t have any problem saying no to people who don’t cross the “nice” threshold. We have only to look at how the federal government under Harper put less money into Indigenous health and education. Did the rest of the population in Canada get exercised about it? Not so much. As much as I feel compassion for the people who say they need these extremely expensive drugs, which don’t show that much of an extension of life, this is the real world and it does not and can not revolve around them.

    (Response: If they won’t sell in Canada after an impartial panel finds them guilty of exorbitant profit taking on any particular drug …very easy to deal with: legislation can REMOVE their exclusivity/monopoly in such cases … opening the drug up to generic production. You have to get tough with unscrupulous individuals/corporations that ask for monopoly protection … and then use that as a basis for extortion. h.o.)

  • 14 e.a.f. // Nov 20, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    RIssak #4, makes excellent points and describes very well the unfairness of the system. His wife needs drugs which cost only $50K a year and would be denied. How stupid is that, but the government is now thinking about a $250K and a $750K a year drug.

    When it comes to palliative care, government doesn’t pay squat in the big picture. Its usually started by community groups. It is much cheaper than hospitals and yet not much will be done. In the end the government will cough up the $750k year because they can’t stand the bad press, just as Ontario has done.

    Governments won’t pay enough for home care, but will allow some one to break a hip or something else due to it, be in hospital for months, and die in the end. Governments simply don’t front load, where the savings are, because they don’t look beyond the next election.

    Barry #9, brings up an excellent point regarding bulk buying by governments. The federal government has rejected it time and again, yet the country would save aprox. $2B a year and spend approx. $1B instead of the current $3B or some such figures.

    As to the monopolies, and the high drug charges, these companies are simply seeing who will blink first and its always the governments because they can’t stand the political heat or the press attacks. In the B.C. cases, the government is taking the heat but we don’t have the press saying much about the companies who are holding the government to ransom. Do we advertise who the CEO and B of D. are of some of these companies? Do the press and public have a verbal wack at them? No that isn’t going to happen because big media, big pharma and big government all play golf together or go to the same vacations spots or their kids go to the same schools.

    To reduce costs of drugs, if companies don’t, my suggest is simply, have a government funded university do the research and replicate the drug. then go into production for our own citizens. If the companies want to sue, fine, pass a law which prohibits it. Will the government do it? NO. Its their financial base and then there are the Constitutional issues. It might work though and companies would reduce their prices.

    When it comes to drug prices, Michael Moore did a film years ago with some American patients, took them to Cuba where they paid less than 50 cents for some pills which were costing them hundreds in the U.S.A. Corporations charge what the market will bear and what society will put up with. Its time we considered drugs which save lives essential to the well being of our country and simply let the pharma corporations blink next time.

  • 15 Bill // Nov 20, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    I had a work related injury that required surgery. 2 weeks after the surgery, I got a call from the private clinic (worksafe B.C. covered the costs) that I had hep c. Where or how I contracted it was and is a mystery. The doctor referred me to the clinic at Vancouver general where the liver scans and viral load counts were assessed. The good news was there was a drug that ends the virus – the bad news was it cost $60,000 for an 8 week run. 1 pill a day for 8 weeks.$1000 a pill.
    Now I have absolutely no visible viral load. That’s good, but it seems there’s reports of my next health struggle (congestive heart failure, arrhythmia) being linked to Harvoni. The drugs I have to take now cost me just north of $550 a month, just to stay alive.

    (Response: There’s no doubt some drugs can be expensive to research, develop and produce…and companies deserve fair profit margins. But when a drug exceeds a certain price mark, that should be assessed/evaluated to ensure the public and our health care providers are not being hosed. h.o.)

  • 16 Island Lookout // Nov 21, 2017 at 8:13 am

    BRIDGES OVER TROUBLED WATERS

    These stories leave the rest of us feeling sad, desolate and powerless.

    While we feel for those afflicted, by those diseases, we must also be enraged at the costs of some of those medicines which afflict these people as well.

    Next we must ask: what if this happens to “us”?

    What would WE do?

    A couple of points here: some of these diseases, or afflictions, are rare. In the good old days, of a few years ago, there were no cures and death followed.

    Now stories of medical advances and their resultant “miracle cures” have created expectations in the rest of us, that these medicines will resolve our issues and we’ll just keep on living well.

    But the costs are often NOT mentioned in these stories.

    What follows are the many issues listed above with all of their heart-aches.

    Medical advances are outstripping the ability of the rest of us to pay for these cures.

    I think this matter will soon approach a national emergency, or major concern, as these miracle cures keep unfolding.

    Governments will not be expropriating these drug companies, because they don’t have the money.

    So, like New Zealand, and I’m mentioning only Canada here, some national negotiation with these companies will have to take place, to bring down drug costs. All drug costs.

    The taxpayers will have to “win” this debate.

    In other words a new “national policy” will be the goal that even the companies will feel impelled to accept.

    They’ll be profiting OK but they won’t be gouging.

    There can be no other outcome.

    Over to you provincial health ministers and the national minister.

    Be brave and resolve this…soon.

  • 17 BMCQ // Nov 22, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    I am very happy that the B.C. Government has found a way to assist Shantee with her Treatment.

    I understand that there are about 4,000 Cases of AHUS each year across Canada.

    Let’s hope that the Provinces and the Federal Government can put someone at Both Levels of Government on this File that can cobble together a strategy and ultimately Legislation that can offer reasonable agreements between Pharma and the Feds that puts Patients First.

    Frankly I am not really a big supporter of the Case by Case Committee Hesring but at least it is a start.

    Time for ALL Governmentscin Democratic Countries to equally pressure Pharmaceutical Corps to do better, $750 K and anything close to it each year for Sick People should not be acceptable to anyone.

    Perhaps someone in Media can take this on and Governments and Citizens in all Democracies can begin to hold Pharmaceuticals Accountable.

    Kudos to Global and others for what they have already done on this but in my opinion this should only be the beginning, there is lots more to do and there are thousands more Sick People and their Families that Need and Deserve Relief!

    Again, Good Fortune to RIsaac, his Wife and Family!

  • 18 e.a.f. // Nov 22, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    BMCQ, Global didn’t take this on out of the goodness of their hearts. it sold advertising. its that old thing about if it bleeds it leads, well in this case it was that of thing. There have been all sorts of awful things which Global could have used their stations for over the last decade and didn’t. Might also add, Global isn’t all that in love with the NDP. That is where Baldrey is located is it not.

    of course the government was going to pay for it. Global would have turned it into a media circus until they did and then the BC Lieberals would have used it in ads.

    Now lets see what Global does for some one who isn’t a university student, attractive, and etc.

    Didn’t see Globall do much when the drug researches were fired and one killed himself……

    that case by case thing is never that great. if you know how to make noise, are middle class, have family, look cute on camera you get the drug. Live on a reservation in the middle of time buck two, not so much. If you’re a kid who lives in surrey in abject poverty and your parents aren’t middle class not going to get the drug either.

  • 19 Diverdarren // Nov 22, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    Harvey, I feel for these people with rare medical cases that get caught up into governmental quagmires. But I’m not ready to jump on the pharmaceuticals are evil bandwagon.

    What if the problem is that the patent monopoly granted to pharmaceuticals is too short?

    Big Pharma develops some super drug that can only be sold to a small group afflicted with some rare condition. If the law only gives x number of years to sell the drug before the knockoff companies start production of your drug, that means Big Pharma has to recoup their investment in x years.

    If we doubled their monopoly to 2x years then they would have twice the time to recoup the costs and they could 1/2 the price to meet their bottom line. 3x the monopoly gives thrice the time at 1/3 the price.

    Stop dumping on Pharmaceuticals for just being a company instead of a charity. Work with Big Pharma so that they can make the drugs we want at the price we like and the profit their shareholders expect.

    And before you say that Big Pharma will just put a big price on the the pills for a longer time… Well that’s where the hammer of government has a place.

    (Response: Certainly worth consideration by an INDEPENDENT (non-corporate, non-political) body of experts..such as highly accredited medical, scientific and economic officials to determine what is fair. I would have thought 15 years (used to be 10) is more than enough of a monopoly…but would concede others with better knowledge should determine the fair period. However, one this IS clear …$250,000 a year for oils per patient is unaffordable. h,o.)

  • 20 BMCQ // Nov 23, 2017 at 9:00 am

    e.a.f. – 18

    Global either DID or DID NOT do a good job on the AHUS Story and I feel they did.

    That in my opinion does not mean they have had failures on others, the evidence speaks for itself.

    We all have our own opinions on the Politics on any one Media Outlet.

    As an example I consider CKNDP (NW) have an Agenda against the B.C. Liberals.

    Once again, that does not man they do not do some good Reporting.

    I just do not know as the only NW I listen to as of the past year is Bruce, Michael Campbell, Jill Bennett, Michael Smyth when I get a Heads Up, and the odd time Lynda Steele on the way home.
    I am afraid the Little Australian is basically “An Empty Suit” and only a Legend in his Mothers Basement!

    Sometimes they/NW do a Fair and Balanced Report on any one Topic but on others I feel they are unfair. That might be the result of the Very Leftist Activist they now have as PD.

    I do not care about “Opinion Media” Shows at all they are well defined and listeners get the message is coming from an Opinion Media.

    Then you have Editorials, we should all be aware of what we might find on an Editorial Page or Comment Segment.

    I could be mistaken but I thought there was not enough interest or coverage on the Health Research Workers being Axed during that time and later.

    Then there was the mistake of the Government not being Transparent enough and that along with the lack of coverage by Media was Criminal.

    I honestly do not think there was any conspiracy between Media and the Liberal Government.

    Can anyone on this Blog actually Claim in Good Conscience that if we had a B.C. Liberal Government there would have been NO or LITTLE Coverage of AHUS and Shantee?

    I kind of doubt that but then again there are probably those on this Blog that would disagree.

    I would like to repeat here that Democracies ALL over the World should demand better Treatment from Pharma. The 15 Year Patent Term is unreasonable and it should be addressed, 10 years was enough.

    This Re-Negotiation with Pharma should be done on a United Front and there is NO Reason that during a G-20 Summit sometime in the near future Health Ministers from those Countries should gather to form a United Front to Negotiate with Pharma on this whole issue of ALL Drugs and their R & D, Patents, Lenghths of Patents and the rest.

    trust me if all of those Nations were to put pressure on Pharma there would be many changes, ALL for the better.

    I suggest you watch this very closely as it will not be very far into the New Year that the DJT Admin takes this on and if our “acebook and Selfie King” along with other World Leaders (YIKES) can get his/their Head out of his/their A** we might approach the U.S. and become part of that discussion.

    Someone should explain to PM Justin that bringing down cost of Pharmaceuticals to Canadians might just get him some Good Press Coverage.

    I do not think this is that difficult.

    Just watch happens with the U.S. Government and Pharma over the next 9 months.

    Canada should be along for the ride.

    BTW, ALL Canadians regardless of Class or Socioeconomic Status Benefit from cost savings on Pharmaceuticals.

    Why DO WE need to Politicize absolutely everything?

    Diver – 19

    Big Pharma are responsible to Shareholders just like any other Publicly Held Corporation.

    Sometimes Executives of that Big Pharma lose sight of the act that they have a responsibility to the Great Unwashed. Now is the time for them to receive a “Wake Up Call”!

    Sometimes Government needs to step in and point out to Pharma that the Over All Good must also be taken into account.

    I am a Share Holder in Big Pharma and have been for many years. Most other Canadians are also Shareholders in Pharma through Pensions, RRSP, Stock Market or other means. Trust me Pharma have more than enough Patent Time in 99% of the Cases.

    The evidence speaks for itself.

    https://www.fool.com/investing/2016/07/31/12-big-pharma-stats-that-will-blow-you-away.aspx

    Most of them would have more than enough time to recover R & D costs and make a very nice Profit for their Company and Shareholders.

    WE DO need to make changes and we need to align ourselves with ALL Provinces through the Federal Government and the Feds in turn need to approach the Pharma Industry with as many other G-20 Nations as possible in a United Front
    to arrive at a solution/fix that benefits ALL Countries World Wide.

    We all have responsibilities to our Fellow Man/Woman and that includes Pharma.

    There is more than enough Documented Information and Evidence available to anyone that care to look that a reasonable Negotiated Settlement is within reach and not that difficult.

    All WE require is the Political Will and Leadership! And just where can we find that?

    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28212223

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ethan-rome/big-pharma-pockets-711-bi_b_3034525.html

    The attached below is what ALL G-20 Nations should be looking at.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-06/japan-joins-trump-in-drug-price-war-crimping-big-pharma-profits

  • 21 RIsaak // Nov 23, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Firstly thanks for all the good wishes, we will continue to battle on any issue which requires such efforts.

    The case by case model currently employed in our case means they only OK the medication for a short period of time, why I cannot answer. Hey, getting the sleeves rolled up for round 4 now.

    As some others have said above and I have said many times in the past years, “my wife has a very focused and engaged advocate, what happens to the ill who have no advocacy’? I’ve asked this question of many health care employees and management types, the silence is absolute, the answer is never forthcoming and I think we all know the answer.

    I have tried engaged the health ministry on a variety of issues as they have reared their heads, to very differing results. I also have tried to engage my old MLA, and have had a few serious issues which have troubled me, which mostly went unacknowledged. I will not delve into details, but the folks apparently responsible could not even respond or did not wish to. Recently this has changed, time will tell if lip service is what we’ve received or if there is a change in tactics towards communication and responsibility. So far, I personally feel Mr. Dix has effected some change at least in the realm of communication, I only have the recent Liberal administration for comparison, but the changes are apparent to me. That being my thoughts, I still believe the medical system in it’s current incarnation has many issues, the primary one I see is the watering down of responsibility and the efforts to create all the health authorities (which in my mind mirrors the pharma conundrum in the Provincial vs. Federal standards).

    Federal Liberals, serial health funding cutbacks on health transfers, this is a definite pattern, one which eases Ottawa’s fiscal contributions, one which furthers the degradation of front line medical care. The Federal health minister, (whom is a doctor) has offered zero input on Pharma, zero input on health transfer funding, zero input on Pharma providing perks to doctors, zero input on sustaining cost certainty or assisting in obtaining such. This tact of abandonment is troubling, this Minister appears to be a lame duck or a disinterested one at least. I’m sure as a Physician she has received perks from Pharma, maybe this hand in the cookie jar compromised her ability to see right and wrong? Are Pharma perks to Physicians taxable? Very curious for that answer.

    The notion that if we extended the patent times to double what they are today to 1/2 the costs is absurd, no Pharma will cut 50% of the price. The boardrooms full of executives angling for massive bonus’s will never just cut costs in half, they’ll find more creative methods to increase the ROI for their shareholders (which all but guarantees their own salaries) long before paying attention to the needs/wants of the public.

    No easy solution, no magic bullet, no real desire from many in government to effect real change, this is an issue which requires stones far in excess of the ones possessed by any elected official in Canada today!

    BTW, the manufacturer of the medication we battle to receive for my wife, has contributed to the Federal & Provincial Liberals, in amounts far larger than the amounts they have given to any of the other political parties in Canada, this is troubling. This also in the Feds case says they are already bought and paid for, so any real Pharma changes will not be coming from Ottawa in the foreseeable future.

  • 22 Gene The Bean // Nov 23, 2017 at 11:21 am

    EAF #18

    Unfortunately you are bang on.

    You can run down the whole list of “those” who would not have been funded. It matches up perfectly with “those” who are marginalized by certain governments.

  • 23 R // Nov 23, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Health care research firings- what drug was premier office supporting if any?
    October – all lib and con mp s voted no to national perscription bill only ndp voted yes
    Bc pension plan ,in 2017,converted from bc to gsc?and parent had to reapply to use name brand on all drugs – big generic push.?

  • 24 R // Nov 23, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    We would save billions with national program and cover lesser used drugs and cure for hep c

  • 25 Keith // Nov 23, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    worth a read from todays Times Colonist related to this subject.

    http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-sky-high-prices-don-t-mean-a-drug-is-effective-1.23102855

    (Response: Even if a drug had a marginal evaluation by some experts, if my life was at stake and there was some chance it could save me ..I’d want to try it! But I shouldn’t have to sell my home to cover the $250,000 a year cost that has (as far as I can see) never adequately been explained or defended. h.o.)

  • 26 13.. // Nov 23, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Luckily my exposure to the BC health care system has been mostly positive. My wife and I have been lucky to have had extended benefit plans (currently I do not because my co workers in the UNIFOR union voted them away). Currently we also are paying our own BC Medical. That is by far a very irritating bill.
    My mother lived to be 83 and the last 6 or 7 years of her life were an endless test for our medical system. IMHO the medical system earned a C+. My fear is that as we boomers grow old (who an I kidding) older the system will crumble under its own weight.
    Costs have to be controlled. I DO NOT mean that anyone should want for medical procedures or drugs. We need to try to get a handle on the cost of ALL benefit programs paid to public sectors.
    We need to streamline health boards. Endless bureaucracy, to many municipalities with to much duplication of costs due to administration.
    Pump all the savings back into the TWO biggest ministries Healthcare and Education.
    And in closing imagine if we spent as much to look after our seniors that need help as we are willing to spend to fight an unwinnable war on drug abuse. Riverview with real commitment not a crumby 11 bed increase that our Premier used as a photo op would be the answer to the drug problem.