I posted a link to a column by a family doctor on the provincial government’s plan to destroy a UBC initiative that helped control Pharmacare costs and save lives.
The Gazetteer – the blogger I find most consistently interesting on a lot of fronts – asked this:
“I, for one, would be interested in your opinion on how this 'decision'
was deflector-spun out of bounds such that it has remained pretty much
a non-story despite the fact that it will have a real and lasting
impact on all British Columbians.
The government released the pharmaceutical task force report May 21.
The Sun had a story the next day, which led with the report’s conclusion that B.C. was paying too much for generic drugs.
It noted the criticism of the Therapeutics Initiative and included a response from the Initiative and comments from Adrian Dix that Big Pharma dominated the review panel.
The Tyee covered it as well.
A week later, on May 28, The Sun had a front-page story on international criticism of the attack on the Therapeutics Initiative.
The same day Craig McInnes, a Sun editorial writer, had a column setting out the value of the Initiative and criticizing the composition of the panel.
And the next day, Andre Picard. The Globe’s stellar health columnist, defended the Initiative.
On June 4, The Sun ran an op-ed piece from drug-company funded illness groups supporting the review and quicker approval of new drugs.
Vaughn Palmer offered a balanced view June 10.
The Times Colonist ran a ferocious Colby Cosh column defending the Initiative June 16, and the doctor’s column June 18.
I didn’t look at regional papers.
I meant to write about it, but didn’t have time to read the report. Not a great explanation, but true.
There was a lack of news coverage. How much more would drugs have cost without the Iniatitive? Who was on the review panel? What do people like UVic’s Alan Cassels, who has researched pharmaceuticals, think?
But the report on the drug task force report competed for space – and reader attention – with the CBC reports on casino money-laundering and news on people turned away from shelters.
All in all, the media coverage and analysis weren’t bad, though not impressive either.
It is a complicated story to tell in a form that people will read. And it’s less immediately grabbing than an ER closure or someone getting their hip surgery delayed again. We aren't good at complicated stories.
The issue got not bad coverage. But not great, either. And the public didn't pay much attention.
One issue is the balance of interests. For the drug companies, it’s hugely important to get barriers to quick approval of new drugs pushed aside.
For the average person, defending an effective drug approval process is pretty far down the list of worries.
That suggests a bigger public role for those who have a credible voice. Like Dr. Blair.