VICTORIA — B.C. New Democrat leader Adrian Dix today called on Premier Christy Clark to press Prime Minister Stephen Harper to drop the pharmaceutical provisions in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement currently being negotiated between Canada and the European Union.
The Prime Minister is meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week in Ottawa.
“The European Union is demanding increased patent protection for European drug companies that will cost provincial and employer drug plans hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Dix. “This deal will block our access to cheaper, generic drugs, put B.C.’s health budget under increased strain and ultimately threaten the quality of care received by British Columbians.”
New Democrats have repeatedly called on the B.C. Liberal government to impress upon the Harper government the negative consequences of the deal, but so far they have failed to act.
“At a time when the Harper government is unilaterally cutting health transfers to the provinces, B.C. cannot stand idly by while pharmaceutical costs are unnecessarily inflated to benefit European drug companies,” said Dix.
Just this week, a report released by the Canadian Medical Association showed that one in four low income Canadians has postponed or not filled prescriptions due to their cost.
“This report brings to light the serious issue of inequality, showing us how access to quality health care and affordable medications really differs between the haves and the have-nots,” said New Democrat health critic Mike Farnworth.
“This is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed. One in four Canadians with lower incomes are not able to take the medications they need, simply because they can't afford it.”
B.C.’s New Democrats believe that access to quality health care and increasing drug costs are issues that if left unaddressed will have serious long-term consequences.
The B.C. Liberals have failed to advocate on behalf of British Columbians and provide them with affordable options. A report released by Statistics Canada in April 2012 showed that British Columbians pay 22 per cent more for out-of-pocket health care costs than other Canadians.
Prescription drugs represent the second leading healthcare cost in Canada after hospitals. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, drug costs have risen an average of 8.6 per cent annually over the past 27 years. The CIHI has also noted that drug expenditures are primarily influenced not by our aging population, but rather by what drugs are prescribed and what price individuals and plans pay for them.
“Countries such as New Zealand have shown that policies giving priority to generics can lead to much lower rates of growth in costs and to expanded coverage,” said Dix. “In contrast to New Zealand, which has a similar population base, B.C. pays 45 per cent more for statins and 79 per cent more for ACE inhibitors.
“By stopping the pharmaceutical provisions of CETA, promoting best practices in prescribing, expanding access to generic drugs and protecting consumers against the rising cost of brand name drugs we can free up resources to invest in primary care, disease prevention and home support.”