How much is too much?

A Toronto Star editorial calls for a public debate on “the ethical dilemma of paying for an exorbitantly priced drug for rare diseases while also ensuring that the government can afford the drugs used by millions of other Ontarians”. Read the origional article… So where does the discussion begin? How do we put a price on human life?

The Star references the case of a patient with a rare disease whose life saving treatment is a drug costing $500,000 a year for life. It’s an impossible position for a politician to be in. Or is it? Over 50% of the population suffers from a chronic illness like arthritis, diabetes, lung disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease etc. And the cost of life saving and life altering drugs continues to escalate as the pharmaceutical technologies become more complex and sophisticated. Sounds like a merry-go-round – wondering when it’s going to stop?

Agreed, the discussion has got to start. We need to develop principled understandings so as to manage the reality of the cost of chronic illness in our society. Unfortunately, it looks like a real hot potato issue that no one really [...] continue the story

Ontario’s special drug program mired in backlog

The Toronto Star reports that Ontario patients are waiting up to 5 months to get prescriptions approved under the Exceptional Access Program. Read the whole article… Full disclosure: I’m taking Remicade for Crohn’s disease. And I’m a lucky guy – my $30,000 annual tab is picked up by my wife’s benefit plan. But in just over 5 years when she retires, we’ll be tossed off her plan. And I’ll be at the mercy of the Ontario Drug Benefit plan.

I’m already fretting over what the future will bring. Will the continued financial strain on the health system foreclose on my access to Remicade, and instead force a body altering operation because it will cost the system less in the short run?

And will this decision be made by a cost-benefit analyst rather than by a collaborative agreement between me and my doctors after assessing all the available information and a quality of life analysis?

A health ministry spokesman blames the current delays on the system converting to an electronic format. Should I take that at face value or is this just the tip of the iceberg of a dangerous trend?

I’ll put a [...] continue the story

Patient-chosen doctor awards a first for Canada

Patients’ Choice Award is a way for patients to honour their physicians who have demonstrated exceptional health care by looking beyond treatment and focusing on the well-being of their patient. Read the whole article… The Patients Association of Canada has broken new ground here with a collaborative program with the Ontario Medical Association – pairing patients and doctors in an innovative “feel-good” initiative to build patient responsibility and physician recognition. It helps to re-balance the patient/doctor relationship. For more info on the Patients Association of Canada. I can testify that there’s a couple of Patient Commandos inserted undercover in their membership.