Social Isolation, a Growing Epidemic

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom recently appointed one of her ministers, Tracey Crouch, to lead an inter-governmental group tasked with countering a growing epidemic of social isolation and loneliness.

The appointment was made in response to a report published by the Commission on Loneliness, set up to honor the late Jo Cox, a Labour MP who had campaigned about loneliness and was murdered by a right wing extremist in 2016.

In her announcement Prime Minister May said: “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.” and “I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones – people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

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Health Canada Funded by Drug Companies

Before 1994, Health Canada was funded solely by tax dollars; after 1994, Drug Companies paid a fee to Health Canada for the drug approval process and those fees currently fund 50% of this process. Health Canada wants to increase that 50% to 90% and in addition, it will rebate 25 per cent of that fee if it fails to review new drug applications within a specified period of time.

This change how Health Canada is funded creates some issues.

  • Mixed goals. The public’s goal is to have safe and effective drugs. The pharmaceutical industry’s goal is to get its products approved quickly and to sell them to a large audience.
  • There is no evidence that faster drug approval is of benefit to public health; there is evidence of considerable harm.
  • Most new drugs approved in Canada are no more effective and no safer than existing alternatives. Between 2010 and 2016, only 10.6 per cent of new patented drugs were classified as a substantial improvement or a breakthrough.
  • Drugs approved in 300-days have about a one in five chance of having a serious new safety warning issued once they are on the market. If drugs are approved in 180 days, that probability rises to a one in three chance.
  • Products approved within 60 days of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) mandated deadline in the United States were five times more likely to be withdrawn from the market for safety reasons and four times more likely to carry a serious safety warning than drugs approved in a longer approval process.
  • To make Drug approvals independent of pressure from drug companies, the government should eliminate drug company user fees and fund Health Canada fully through tax revenues.

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Seniors Worried About Healthcare Costs in Retirement

A majority of seniors or soon-to-be retirees are concerned whether their finances will be able to stretch far enough to cover serious future health issues.

Take for example, home care, which is partially covered for those who qualify. Consider the fact 8 million Canadians provide care for loved ones, with 8 in 10 of them finding it a difficult task. Home care is considered an “extended” service under the Canada Healthcare Act and is 80% funded by the Ministry of Health and Longterm Care: the rest is privately provided, with hourly costs ranging from $25 to $125.

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2017 Vancouver Homeless Count

The 2017 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count counted the number of homeless people over a 24-hour period on March 8, 2017.

The count highlighted the increasing number of seniors that are experiencing homelessness

A total of 380 seniors between 55 and 65 years and another 176 seniors above the age of 65 years responded to the survey on March 8, for a total of 556 seniors. Seniors aged 55 and over represented 23% of the homeless population compared to 18% in 2014. This continues the upward trend of seniors in relation to the total homeless population that has been evident since the 2008 Count. Continue reading

NAFTA Negotiations Threaten Canada’s Push for Universal Pharmacare

NAFTA re-negotiations may impact Canada’s push for Universal Pharmacare.

U.S. trade negotiators favour the interests of pharmaceutical manufacturers over government and consumers. In the 1980s, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry successfully lobbied the U.S. government to make the elimination of early generic drug competition in Canada part of the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. In the 1990s, The U.S. made the dismantling of policies favouring Canadian drug manufacturers part of the original NAFTA deal.

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Quebec Implementing Single Purchaser for Generic Drugs

Summary of the Globe and Mail article.

  • Quebec will seek competitive bids from companies for exclusive supply contracts for generic prescription drugs
  • In Quebec, pharmacists were often rebated up to 45 per cent of the price from the drug companies – fees that are illegal in most provinces; the new system caps rebates to pharmacists at 15%
  • Quebec spends $800 annually on generic drugs
  • Quebec could save 25 per cent to 35 per cent on its $800-million generic-drug bill

Read the entire Globe and Mail article June 28, 2017

Canadian Drug Companies Conflict of Interest in Clinical Practice Guidelines

Summary of the Globe and Mail Article.

  • Financial conflicts of interest are commonplace on guideline committees; 46% of the panelists involved in nine guideline documents received funding from companies that might benefit from a positive mention of their drugs
  • In 3 cases, more than 75 per cent of the panelists declared a conflict
  • In 2 cases, the guidelines were financed directly by the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Doctors rely on guideline panels; official clinical practice guidelines can have a dramatic impact on how drugs are prescribed.
  • Canada has no nationwide rules for conflicts of interest; guideline committees set their own conflict standards.
  • Pharmaceutical companies pay doctors to deliver speeches, act as consultants, teach continuing medical-education courses, fly to conferences and spearhead clinical trials, among other services.
  • The United States Physician Payments Sunshine Act compels companies to divulge all payments of $10 or more to doctors; Canada has no requirement for drug companies to divulge payments to doctors.

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Canadian Drug Companies Payments to Doctors and Health-Care Organizations

Summary of the Globe and Mail article.

    • Ten large Canadian drug companies paid $48 million to doctors and health-care-organizations in 2016
    • The payment disclosure was voluntary and was an aggregate number; critics say this is not transparent and meaningless
    • Only 10 of the 45 members  of a drug company consortium took part in the voluntary effort

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PharmaCare Forum

A very successful PharmaCare Formum was held in Vancouver Quadra on May 26th 2017. This event was sponsored by the Quadra Granville Seniors Group; a group that works with seniors and the community to influence all levels of government to develop and implement supportive policies for seniors. The Forum was attended by 90 people from the Vancouver Quadra, Vancouver Granville, Vancouver East, Vancouver Kingsway, Vancouver South, Delta and Port-Moody-Coquitlam ridings.

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