Astellas Pharma Canada has launched a BC campaign to build public awareness of their new incontinence treatments. Although both drugs are approved for sale in the country, currently neither has the approval for subsidy by BC’s Pharmacare. Rather than reaching out to the government via direct lobbying, Astellas is trying another solution and has launched a nationwide incontinence awareness campaign, “It’s Urgent”
While every drug that’s approved in Canada can be sold in Canadian pharmacies, what the average consumer does not know is that not all pharmaceuticals are equally subsidized. Because Canadian health care is the responsibility of the province, signing off on and paying for things is a matter left up to each individual government. Of course Canada makes sure that each province can meet minimal standards of care for all Canadian citizens on matters like access and pharmaceutical quality assurance, but the individual details of matters like Pharmacare are open to variance, just like their private insurance cousins. Right now BC’s Pharmacare program covers only one kind of incontinence treatment, a fact that Astellas emphasises as it asks Canadians to write into the province to open up more opportunities.
The importance of consumer choice
Medical insurance of all kinds wants the least expensive treatments for their patients, and they generally use their high volumes to drive down treatment prices. Government-run or monitored healthcare schemes are particularly armed to see to public health. They have extra emphasis on results, and more willingness to encourage spending up front on preventative healthcare. However this makes provinces gatekeepers on what, out of the vast range of pharmaceutical products, they will put their money into. Thus, while Astellas enjoys massive pharmaceutical sales in the US, the same cannot be said for the westernmost part of BC.
Generally speaking, pharmacare programs know consumer choice is important, and will cover multiple treatment variations, as well as avoiding favouring one brand or another. They are particularly supportive of generics and other things that promote consumer discounts. The challenge, for government bodies is that the leading experts on what drugs are most effective are often the drugs that developed them.
The BC government relies on the Therapeutics Initiative as an unbiased consulting and research group attached to University of British Columbia. They caution that while 10% of Canadians may suffer from incontinence in their lives, they feel that there are other more effective solutions to incontinence, including non-pharmaceutical ones. As with all things of this nature, this is a complicated matter that will create another case study in Canadian pharmaceutical regulatory affairs.
Do you think BC should increase the availability of incontinence drugs?