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Health ministry quit taking TI's independent drug advice

The government no longer uses the Therapeutics Initiative's independent advice on pharmaceutical drugs, though it will continue to fund it, health minister Kevin Falcon said today.

“I'm advised by staff that we're no longer utilizing the Therapeutics Initiative,” Falcon said in health ministry budget estimates debate today. The University of British Columbia group of academics provided evidence-based information about drugs to the health ministry and doctors.

New Democratic Party health critic Adrian Dix said he couldn't believe the government would stop using the TI which saves both money and lives. “This is an organization with an international reputation that has been consistently right in its key advice, both to policy-makers and to citizens,” he said.

The ministry will continue to get independent advice from UBC academics, Falcon said. “We still fund the faculty of medicine to support our drug review process, and they do so through their faculty,” he said. “We're in the process of finalizing a new contract with UBC that would reflect the change, in that we would no longer be directly . . . using the therapeutics initiative exclusively to provide the decisions around the listing of drugs.”

Dix said the TI has been a target for the pharmaceutical industry for a long time. “I think it's very sad that an institution that has done an extraordinary job for British Columbia . . . would be treated that way. It's extremely disappointing.”

Last year the government's pharmaceutical task force, a panel stacked with people connected to the drug industry, recommended scrapping the TI.

UBC's faculty of medicine is moving ahead with recommendations made during an academic review of the TI last year, dean of medicine Gavin Stuart said. The faculty is negotiating with the ministry how it will be involved in providing advice in the future, he said, adding that its role has always been to provide advice, not to set the ministry's policies.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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