JULY 2008



Unbiased drug review under threat in BC

Most provinces turn to the Common Drug Review for advice on public coverage of medications. For therapies that fall outside the Common Drug Review, British Columbia relies on an independent review and clinical education body housed at UBC called the Therapeutics Initiative (TI). The TI review process has been praised for outcomes such as preventing widespread use of COX-2 inhibitors in BC, medications which turned out to have a poor risk-benefit ratio.

The TI has now come under attack, however. A government-appointed task force on the province's pharmaceutical policy is composed in large part of people with ties to the pharmaceutical industry, including Russell Williams, the president of the main industry lobby group, Rx&D. Its April 2008 report concluded, without substantiation, that the TI is "widely regarded as being in need of either substantial revitalization or replacement." The panel recommends the TI should cease conducting drug reviews and educational activities altogether, suggesting that they have not been "unbiased and evidence based."

In barely concealed contempt for the TI, which is explicitly designed to keep the evaluation process shielded from industry influence, the panel suggested a new process that includes "disease-specific experts." Although experts have a lot to offer, the fact is that many have conflicts of interest because they are involved in research and education funded by the pharma industry.

Big Pharma spreads its money around, including to Health Minister George Abbott's party, the BC Liberals. The Abbott-appointed Pharmaceutical Task Force illustrates how commercial interests can influence health policy if we let them, and why Canadians should hesitate to allow commercialization of other aspects of the healthcare system. Once corporate interests are let in, their lobbyists want a say in whatever government does. — Dr Randall F White, Vancouver, BC



back to top of page




© Parkhurst Publishing Privacy Statement
Legal Terms of Use
Site created by Spin Design T.