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Patented prescription drug costs not a major driver of health cost inflation

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Re: “Expensive medicine: Why do Canadian doctors continue to prescribe the most costly drugs?” (The Hill Times, March 5, page 12) editorial by Alan Cassels. Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) are governed by a strict and mandatory code of ethical practices to ensure that their interactions with health-care professionals meet the highest standards. Since 1995, our code has explicitly forbidden gifts or other inducements to gain influence with health-care professionals. Any reported breach is investigated and can lead to severe consequences for any employees involved and the companies themselves. 

We should remember that physicians make their own choices based upon their professional expertise and experience. They know what is best for their patients.

We recognize the enormous challenges facing Canadian governments in charting a fiscally sustainable future for health care. But health expenditures must not be viewed as individual items—such as innovative medicines—but rather in terms of how they contribute to better care and better results for patients. 

As an industry, if we were to only look at our piece of the puzzle, research shows that patented prescription drug costs are not a major driver of health cost inflation. Indeed, a 2011 Fraser Institute study shows that patented prescription drugs are, at 5.2 per cent, a relatively small percentage of total government health spending. 

Delivering quality health care today is increasingly a partnership of effective medicines, improved care and leading-edge technology. Rx&D members continue to invest billions in this work, with exciting results. Their innovations have helped lower treatment and hospitalization costs, and have saved and improved lives.

Russell Williams

President, RxD

Ottawa, Ont. 

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