Dr. Dale Dewar, Arm River

Question 1

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published research in 2012 that showed one in ten Canadians report they skip doses or decide not to fill prescriptions because of cost.[i]

If elected to government, what will your party do to make prescription medications more affordable?

The Green Party supports a universal pharmacare program based upon evidence from independent investigators  – for example, the BC Therapeutics Initiative supported by the provincial government.

While it may be necessary for a provincial government to take the lead, we believe that such a program should be national.

Question 2

A key element of ensuring timely treatment for a cancer patient is ensuring they have access to the medications they need at the time they need them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in Saskatchewan

If elected to government, will you commit to ensuring that all cancer patients in Saskatchewan receive timely access to medications at the time they need it?

We would entirely agree that cancer patients should have timely access to medications and treatment. As a physician, when first in practice, many of my patients received their treatments under community supervision in our local hospital. Somewhere in the 1990’s centralization occurred, I believe, to the inconvenience and often downright neglect of the patient.

I personally feel strongly that some aspects of centralization have been very negative – family physicians are not informed in a timely manner of their patients’ treatment and progress, one of my patients felt that she was blamed by the oncologist for progress of her cancer because inclement weather was blamed prevented her from attending her appointment. It is also evident to me that patients are not given an opportunity to fully discuss their options for treatment or non-treatment because many of my patients who made the weekly or twice monthly drive to the cancer clinic told me that they felt that they had enrolled in an “experiment”.

Question 3

A new study[ii] released in July 2015 makes a compelling case for expanding our universal public health care system to include the cost of prescription medicines. In addition, a recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute[iii] found that more than 90 per cent of Canadians back the concept of pharmacare.

a)       What is your party’s position on the creation of a national pharmacare program?

b)       How will your party ensure that a national pharmacare program will not reduce the number of prescription medicines available to patients?

c)       Will your party support a new federal equalization payment for national pharmacare so that all provinces are able to cover the same comprehensive range of prescription drugs, with timely new additions on a regular basis?

As mentioned above, the Green party supports the creation of a national pharmacare program.

Will we ensure that the national program will not reduce the number of prescription medicines available to patients? We would not promise to “reduce the number” because there is ample evidence that too many prescriptions are written where other modalities of treatment show better results and that many drugs prescribed show no actual benefit. As mentioned above, we would support the establishment of a federal initiative that examined the evidence for the use of a medication before supporting its inclusion on the prescription drug list. An “exceptional drug status” could be argued for drugs that patients or physicians wish to use in the absence of proof of efficacy.

An equalization would be an essential part of a national pharmacare program. The Green party would not only support timely additions to the list of medications covered by the program but also appropriate deletions as medications become obsolete or supplanted by newer and more efficacious pharmaceuticals.