Benefits, not just costs of drugs, need to be considered: BioAlberta

Canadians for Sustainable Medicare, Your Voice for Patient Choice™, has identified innovation as a key element to improve and modernize the Canadian health care system for the 21st century. Simply stated, “It’s time to value and encourage the innovations and contributions that the private sector can bring.”

The importance of innovation was detailed and heralded in a January 25, 2017, op-ed by Larry Wong, President and CEO of BioAlberta. BioAlberta is an industry association representing the province’s life sciences industry.

A few days later, the Fraser Institute released its research on intellectual property rights and the bio-pharmaceutical industry.

Larry Wong: Excerpts

Discussions “of pharmaceutical drug spending too often focus on the easy-to-read lines in a budget.” But, they “don’t take the time to measure or boast about the strategic impact of this spending: the real human and financial benefit to patients, their families, and the province as a whole.”

“While the sustainability of the health-care system is a priority for Albertans, the government must look beyond the direct cost of medications and analyze their effect on other health-care spending, as well as their benefit to the economy as a whole.”

“For some patients, the new medications are the first effective treatments for their conditions. As an example, for a patient with Crohn’s Disease, a biologic drug that suppresses their symptoms and prevents flare-ups can be the difference between being able to work and a life on public disability payments. It is the difference between a working, taxpaying citizen and someone who, through trips to the hospital, surgeries, and other prescriptions (including pain killers), can cost the health-care system more than the cost of the biologic drug”.

“In the case of new hepatitis C medications, the new treatments appear to have fewer side effects and better effectiveness against the virus than previous treatments. The treatment may effectively mean a full cure for some patients, saving them from potential liver cancer and the need for a liver transplant, both of which are significantly greater costs to the health-care system than a full course of the drug”.

“According to a 2016 report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, ‘Care In Our Control,’ Ontario recoups approximately twice as much in benefits as it spends on pharmaceuticals. Across the world, it is estimated that every $1 spent on innovative medicines reduces non-medical spending by $7 — by reducing the need for hospital stays and surgeries, and by increasing patient productivity.”

Fraser Institute: Excerpts

“An extensive body of evidence demonstrates that patents and other intellectual property protections are critical to the future of innovation and the development of new treatments and cures. A strong legal regime is essential for a robust innovation-based biopharmaceutical industry.”

“There are five areas of concern regarding Canadian IP protection for the biopharmaceutical industry: (1) the period of patent term restoration (also called “sui generis protection”), (2) weak enforcement of patents (e.g., no patent linkage right of appeal for innovators), (3) a patent utility standard that is higher than and inconsistent with international norms, (4) the duration and scope of regulatory data protection, and (5) the lack of an orphan drugs regime.”

“The result is an IP regime characterized by significant uncertainty and instability for biopharmaceutical firms. Weaknesses such as onerous patentability requirements, insufficient enforcement mechanisms, and inadequate anti-counterfeiting measures place Canada in the company of Mexico, Malaysia, China, and Russia in the IP Index rankings. These rankings make a difference to prospective investors and signal Canada’s lack of support for knowledge-based industries, especially the biopharmaceutical industry. Fundamentally, Canada is a global outlier, providing inadequate intellectual property protection for the biopharmaceutical industry.”

Canada’s government-run health care system – Medicare -- is a monopoly that prohibits private hospital and private physician care. Medicare is a subpar performer, ranking 10th among 11 advanced countries. Canadians deserve much better! Patients deserve timely access to quality care and choice of hospitals and physicians. Taxpayers deserve much more value for their tax dollars.

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