Tag: prescription drugs
The federal government might be getting into the prescription drug business – and it could be a life-saver for many.
In its 2018 budget, the federal government established an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare (prescription drug coverage). The Council’s purpose is to advise the government on the best approach to implementing a national pharmacare program.
Change could be coming
The federal government recently released a very readable discussion paper to start the ball rolling.
What would national pharmacare look like? It’s still early days – and we don’t know if the government will take over drug coverage for all Canadians, whether private insurers will continue offering workplace coverage, or whether a hybrid system will emerge.
But one of the drug coverage “hot potatoes” that could land in the government’s lap is coverage for high-cost specialty drugs for rare diseases, often called “orphan drugs.” Some of these drug treatments are truly life-saving, but costs for some are hundreds of thousands of dollars. The question is, who should pay?
Will government step up?
According to the National Post, Canada is one of the only developed countries without a regulatory framework for rare disease drugs, although previous governments have taken steps to address the issue.
The issue is that with greater numbers of highly effective, high-cost drugs being brought to market each year, access and affordability are a greater concern than ever. And as the baby boom bulge makes its way into old age, we know there will be no shortage of demand.
While the federal government is studying a potential new model for all prescription medications, a change relating to rare-disease drugs is the one that could truly be a life-saver.
Thanks for reading … Enjoy your day,
Polypharmacy refers to the taking of multiple drugs by a single patient. As more and more drugs are introduced on the market that address the diseases and chronic conditions associated with aging, it is no surprise that it is the elderly who are most affected by polypharmacy. According to a Toronto Star article that appeared as part of their 2008 Atkinson Series, 23% of seniors over the age of 65 take at least five drugs, while 12% are taking 10 or more drugs. Generally, these individuals are seeing more than one specialist for more than one ailment and the issue is simply a lack of oversight in order to keep the ‘larger picture’ in view.
Delving deeper, however, USA Today cited a report by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention that 17% of Americans over the age of 60 are abusing prescription drugs. In such instances of substance abuse, it is not unusual for the individual to visit numerous physicians (‘doctor shopping’) and process their prescriptions through a variety of pharmacies in order to hide the abuse. Particularly addictive drugs in the elderly population are the benzodiazepines (prescribed for anxiety and insomnia) and narcotic painkillers. Risk factors include a prior history of alcoholism or substance abuse. The effects of prescription abuse include confusion, memory impairment and an increased incidence of falls. In 1995, the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported that the doctors who wrote the most prescriptions also had the highest death rates amongst their patients.
So where does one draw the line between prescription use and prescription abuse? When a drug is used for a non-prescribed purpose or when use increases beyond the prescribed dose, then addiction is an issue. If you have a concern about an aging relative, stay connected and informed and periodically check for drug compliance (this is as simple as looking at the fill date and counting the number of pills thus far consumed). Assess alternatives (a pain management specialist, perhaps) and if necessary, express your concerns to the prescribing physician.
Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger