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News Release

Ontario Should Consider
B.C.'s Cost-Saving Drug Plan

July 5, 1995

The MRG issued the following media release on July 5:

The multinational pharmaceutical industry, defending its commercial interests, is attacking a British Columbia plan to save taxpayers money on prescription drugs. When there is more than one therapeutically equivalent drug available, the British Columbia plan, as reported in the Globe and Mail, July 5, 1995, would pay only for the lowest-priced of these therapeutically equivalent drugs.

Under the B.C. proposal, called reference-based pricing, if a doctor prescribed a more expensive drug, there would be two options. First, the doctor could justify the need for the more expensive drug, in which case the government would reimburse the cost. If the doctor could not justify her drug choice, the government would pay only for the cheaper effective alternative. Similar plans have been used in other constituencies, including Germany.

Many new expensive drugs offer no advantages over existing, less expensive alternatives. The pharmaceutical industry, through sophisticated advertising, is often successful in persuading physicians to prescribe such drugs. The result is needless cost to patients, with no benefit.

Pharmaceutical industry advertising is often misleading, and always slanted in favour of the industry. Doctors often do not have the time nor the expertise to distinguish between accurate and misleading claims. Industry efforts contribute toward physicians' suboptimal drug prescribing which has been documented in many studies.

As reported in the Globe and Mail, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association of Canada, representing the multinational pharmaceutical industry, has been running a series of full-page newspaper adds warning against the proposed plan. The plan will, in fact, provide needed savings in a health care system that is threatened by government spending cutbacks. The Medical Reform Group endorses the B.C. plan, and warns the public not to be misled by the partisan and heavily financed reaction by the industry.

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