Tag Archives: health care

Canada’s Medicare: Shattering the ‘Unsustainability’ Myth

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This report by Canadian Doctors for Medicare is a must read for those who are interested in health or who pay taxes.

In other words, if you’re a Canadian citizen.

The key quote and takeaway (bold, italics mine):

While the cost of Medicare has not grown as a percent of GDP over the last 35 years, there have
been significant increases in total health care system costs over the same period, and those
increases have accelerated in the last decade. Overall health spending in Canada has risen from
about 7% of GDP in 1975 to about 10.7% in 2008. In 2010, health care spending was estimated

to be about 12% of GDP.

If Medicare costs are stable, and public sector costs are rising slowly, why are total health care
costs increasing rapidly? The real cost driver is precisely the thing that critics of Medicare tout as
the solution: private health care.

Currently 30% of all health spending is in the private sector, up from 24% in 1975.  That growth
is a result of significant increases in costs in the private health care sector, including out‐of‐pocket
spending and the costs of private insurance. Pharmaceuticals and private prescription drug
insurance are the most significant driver of these costs
, followed by dental care and private
dental insurance.

The overall cost of care has been driven most significantly by the rising cost of pharmaceuticals. In
fact, the rising share of privately financed health care would be much more modest were it not
for the impact of pharmaceutical costs. Canada’s drug costs are higher than the per capita costs
of all Organisation for Economic Co‐operation and Development (OECD) countries with the
exception of the United States and Switzerland, and 30% higher than the OECD average.  Drug
costs overall rose from $4 billion in 1985 to an estimated $26.5 billion in 2007.  During that time, Canadian drug prices rose an average of 9.2%, far faster than in any other OECD country.

In other words, we’re getting hosed, folks. Mega-pharma companies are using Canada’s health care system to line their pockets and it has to stop.

Research I’d Like to See for Canada

(In the UK) Drug giants accused over doctors’ perks: Original story here

Here are some examples:

  • Astra Zeneca paid £2,500 for a doctor at the Royal Bournemouth trust and £1,500 for a doctor at Sheffield teaching hospital to attend a cancer conference in Texas
  • Sanofi-Aventis, the world’s fourth biggest pharmaceutical company, paid for doctors at the Countess of Chester trust to go to conferences in Cape Town, New Orleans and Barcelona. At Gateshead trust, their reps gave a breakfast for 30 staff "to discuss drugs for the treatment of breast cancer". The trust’s register records that "the donor was seeking to secure business".
  • Roche spent £2,000 for an oncology consultant at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge to go to a conference in May last year.
  • GSK, the biggest British pharmaceutical company, paid £1,200 for a consultant at Sheffield teaching hospital to attend the 11th international congress of Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders in Turkey last June.
  • Companies have also been taking hospital staff to top football and rugby matches. Carillion, a public sector construction firm, spent £180 taking a senior manager at Milton Keynes trust to lunch and then a rugby match at Twickenham last August.

And the best quote of all:

Most doctors deny that their reliance on drug company cash makes them biased. The pharmaceutical companies argue that they are helping doctors acquire further medical education by funding their trips to conferences in foreign cities, but they refuse to reveal how much they pay out.

In Canada, we’ve hit the level of having health care at any price.  The Romanow report identified that pharmaceuticals make up one of the largest components of our spend on our health and we should have a nationalized system of generic drugs in order to mitigate the impact of these costs.

I believe that it’s the massive profits going to pharma companies that are threatening the stability of our health care system and that we should follow the Romanow recommendations (most of which have been largely ignored by our leaders).  More importantly, we should encourage the development of a health care system, where people have the right to choose from a list of options (including naturopathic solutions) as opposed to being bullied by practitioners into taking the latest cosmetic drug.

What are your thoughts?