December 7, 2015 2:22 pm
Updated: December 7, 2015 3:47 pm

Medical journal urges health minister to use science and evidence to guide public policy

New health minister Dr. Jane Philpott discusses with Jacques Bourbeau pharmaceutical prices and if a national pharamcare program is a priority.


Federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott received some advice Monday of how she should manage the complicated health portfolio from the editors of Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The journal published an editorial outlining five key areas Philpott should focus on with specific requests for each.  An overarching theme is to focus on science and evidence to guide health policy, address health inequities, and to defend the Canada Health Act.

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In the editorial, “A Letter to our colleague, Canada’s new Minister of Health” the editors congratulate Philpott for “being the first physician to hold this post in 80 years.”

“Your appointment is a historic achievement.”

READ MORE: Health minister Jane Philpott opens door to new accord with provinces

Keeping promises

The editorial team then went on the detail its recommendations and advice for Philpott. The first of which was to keep campaign promises to expand home care, improve long-term care facilities, mental health services, and improve vaccination rates. They also want the promise for plain packaging for tobacco upheld.


As well, the editors want Philpott to “give Canadians the medicines they need. We must remove the inequitable financial barriers that keep millions of Canadians from receiving necessary medications. We urge you, by the end of your mandate, to commit Canada to a specific timeline for implementing universal pharmacare, as supported by compelling evidence.”

In an interview for the Global News, Philpott told Jacques Bourbeau, she understands Canadians are interested in a national pharmacare program but first she is focused on cost.

“Right now our biggest priority it to make sure we reduce pharmaceuticals costs, and there are a lot of ways that we can do that,” health minster Philpott told Global News.

“So before we take on responsibility for even considering an expansion of what will be publicly funded we need to drive down drug costs. Canadians pay some of the highest costs in the world for pharmaceuticals. And that comes out of not only publicly funded care but obviously there are a lot of Canadians who pay out of pocket,” Philpott said.

Funding for Cochrane Canada 

The editorial also urges Philpott to restore the $2 million funding to Cochrane Canada, a non-profit organization that reviews health studies and provides analysis and advice to health providers and patients. It’s funding was slashed earlier this year. Cochrane Canada is funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). It was founded in 1993, and “is the Canadian arm of Cochrane – an independent global network of over 30,000 healthcare practitioners, researchers, patient advocates and others.” Canada is one of 120 countries involved in this non-profit organization.

READ MORE: Canadian ministers tour Syrian refugee camp in Jordan

“Last, never forget that you are a physician. You carry with you the values and responsibilities of our profession — most saliently the expectation to advocate for the health and wellbeing of Canadians — as do we,” the editors write in conclusion to Philpott.

Note:  Global News correspondents are sitting down with the new cabinet ministers who will shape policy in this country, to find out where they came from and where they want to take this country. Global National will air their stories in a series called “The Ministers”. Jacques Bourbeau sat down with health minister Jane Philpott and their conversation will air on Global National on Tuesday, December 8th.

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