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News of one in six British Columbians being unable to afford drug treatments breaking in midst of the Premiers’ health conference should prompt Christy Clark to reconsider her government’s prescription drug policies

VANCOUVER –The fact that more than one in six British Columbians cannot afford necessary prescription drug treatment reflects growing inequality in B.C. and the need for the provincial government to adopt new prescription drug policies, say New Democrats.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal TODAY published a study co-authored by leading health policy researchers from the University of British Columbia that shows seventeen percent of British Columbians cannot comply with prescription drug treatments because they are too expensive – nearly double the national rate of 9.6 per cent.

“The CMAJ is reporting that British Columbians are most vulnerable to not following through on prescriptions because of cost. The result affects the personal health of many British Columbians and the cost-effectiveness of medical treatment. It reflects the impact of growing inequality on families and the failure to follow best practices in prescription drug policy by the current Liberal government,” said leader Adrian Dix.

“People who are already struggling with the HST, with higher MSP premiums, Hydro rates and growing housing costs, are paying the price for policies that put multinational drug companies ahead of public health care. Simply put, the Premier and health minister are not seizing on opportunities to maximize savings that can be put toward expanding public coverage and to increase affordability for patients,” added Dix.

“In fact, BC is moving in exactly the wrong direction. B.C. recently negotiated generic drug prices 40% higher than levels set in Ontario and Quebec. It is also failing to intervene in trade negotiations with Europe that will increase drug costs by $250 million a year in BC by restricting access to generics, which provide the same treatment as brand name versions for a lower cost,” noted NDP Health critic Mike Farnworth.

Farnworth added “there is a clear cost for patients and the health system when individuals cannot afford to comply with prescribed treatments: deteriorating health impacts earnings, and increases the need for more expensive hospital and emergency care.”

“This study should be a call to action in B.C. Our evidence-based plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs than can lead to lower deductibles and savings to invest in greater pubic coverage is needed now more than ever,” concluded Dix.

New Democrats are advocating for measures that include expanding reference-based pricing and academic detailing, supporting the internationally acclaimed Therapeutics Initiative, and negotiating a better price on generic drugs that at least matches Ontario and Quebec’s agreements with drug manufacturers.