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Province should fund patients to give views on drugs: researcher

Getting input from patients on what drugs the government pays for could be good if it's done right, said Victoria health policy researcher Alan Cassels.

“I think involving consumers is a great idea,” Cassels said. “But you've got to have real consumers. And if you want real consumers, you have to pay for it.”

The provincial government announced Nov. 16 that it will be collecting input from patients on drug reviews when deciding whether or not to pay for new pharmaceuticals through the public system. The change is part of a broad restructuring of the review process that critics say has given more sway to the drug industry.

Patient input will likely come mainly from the advocacy groups that receive funding from the pharmaceutical industry, said Cassels. It will seem like public involvement in the process, but will in fact be another way for the companies to express their point of view, he said.

It would be better to go back to making decisions based on scientific evidence, he said. “A group of testimonials does not equal data,” he said. “We shouldn't be making drug policy decisions on the plural of anecdote.”

A health services ministry spokesperson provided an emailed statement saying reviewers will continue to make recommendations to the ministry “based on the best research and clinical evidence available.”

The province will not be providing funding to patient groups or others to intervene in drug reviews, he said.

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

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