June 26, 2014 12:25 pm

Alberta lags behind in access to new drugs

EDMONTON -  New research published by the Canadian Health Policy Institute shows Alberta falls short in quality of coverage for new drugs.

The study compares Canada’s public drug programs in terms of the number of new drugs approved for public insurance coverage, as well as the time that patients must wait for publicly insured access to new drugs. It ranks the quality of coverage for new drugs under federal and provincial public drug plans from best to worst.

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Researchers found the quality of insured access to new drugs varies significantly between public drug plans.

Quebec and Ontario had the best coverage rates, publicly insuring the highest number of available new drugs, while Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia had the lowest coverage rates for new drugs.

Alberta was second to last on the list, receiving approval for 17 per cent of the total drugs approved across the country. Quebec topped the list, receiving approval for the sale of 38 per cent of new drugs.

Without public drug plan coverage, patients like Calgary’s Dick Martin, are not able to access the medications they need. Martin suffers from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, an incurable lung disease that is often fatal within 5 years of diagnosis.

“We don’t know what causes IPF and up until now we had not treatment options for the disease,” Dr. Charlene Fell, a Calgary lung disease specialist explains.

Last year, that changed. In a double blind phase 3 clinical trial, researchers discoverd the drug Pirfenidone could slow the progression of IPF. It wasn’t a cure, but it did give patients more time.

“It’s just phenomenal medical results for our disease, we’ve never had results like this before nad it gives our patients hope for the future.”

Pirfenidone has been approved by Health Canada, but no provincial drug plans have approved its coverage.

“I’m not likely a candidate for a lung transplant so I have no hope at all,” Martin explains. “Without this drug there is nothing available to me.”

Quebec also had the shortest delays in listing new drugs for reimbursement on its public drug plan at 434 days. Alberta was in the middle of the pack in the category with a 700-day waiting period. New Brunswick was last at 1,027 days.

READ MORE: Alberta family appeals to province to save daughter’s life 

The study used data from Health Canada and IMS Brogan from January 1, 2004 to December 1, 2013.

Other Canadian Health Policy Institute research shows all public drug plans across the country provide lower quality of coverage for new drugs than private sector drug insurance plans.

Read the full study below: 

New research ranks Canada’s public drug plans

© Shaw Media, 2014

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