An agency called Therapeutics Initiative evaluates new drugs that come on the market in British Columbia. However Premier Gordon Campbell’s government has decided to eliminate the agency which is B.C.’s only independent drug review agency.
Thanks to the efforts of Therapeutics Initiative British Columbia have the lowest drug costs in the country while offering some of the best coverage. TI saves taxpayers around $50 million each year by locating cheaper alternatives. The Therapeutic Initiative also operates on only about $1 million a year.
Researchers at TI have been credited with saving 500 lives due to issuing timely warnings about possibly dangerous medications. When TI discovered that Vioxx was linked to high rates of heart attacks the people in B.C. kept it off the shelves.
Medical experts and medical journals have touted TI as being the only source of critical assessment in Canada that is not political or partisan. One can imagine the damage that may cause in the political arena as drug companies push to have the agency stopped. One reason for this is because the job of the researchers at TI is to disbelieve anything that is said about a drug until sufficient evidence is show to support it. This makes TI and industry critic.
Because big pharmaceutical companies want to sell their products they are on the other side of that line. It is up to them to produce products that live up to their design and provide evidence of their effectiveness.
Until recently the government wavered on the fence attempting to placate the drug industry without gutting the TI, but when the drug industry is a major contributor to the liberal party eventually the resolve gets worn away. The liberals have caved to the demands of Big Pharma, and the Therapeutics Initiative has been removed from the drug review system and its staff has been banned from future involvement.
The Ministry of Health has outlined the new drug assessment process. Three steps that eliminate TI are now in place. First, all funding has been cut for the Therapeutics Initiative, and it has no further role in the drug assessment process. Second, the drug industry had an extensive influence on the system with weak conflict of interest rules. The third and final action which can be considered nothing more than an act of spite or a slap in the face requires that staff from TI is kept off of the new drug benefit council that has been formed to manage the process.
The experts who have handled Canada’s most successful drug review program are shut out of the entire process. No, these wonderful researchers won’t be unemployed for long; there are several interested parties at an official level. But when it comes to continuing the work they have been involved in, saving the citizens money and protecting them from dangerous drugs the TI is gone.
It appears that government has fallen off the fence and fallen hard into the back pocket of the big pharmaceutical companies. The effect this will have on the people of B.C. is yet to be seen, but one can bet that the huge drug makers won’t be trying to save people money.