Monday, May 16, 2011

It's not that broken and that won't fix it.

Here in New Zealand we have a single government agency that is responsible for buying pharmaceuticals from the drug companies. Pharmac gets quite a lot of negative publicity, usually when they decide not to fund a particular drug. From the point of view of someone outside of the medical system though (I have no idea what insiders think of it), I think it does a hard job reasonably well. In a sense, yes, they are putting a value on peoples lives, but that is what their job is. They have to make a call on each drug taking into account the number of people affected, how much the drug costs and how effective it is, what the benefits and costs to society will be if a drug is or isn't affected. New Zealand doesn't have the money to be able to buy every drug that everyone needs which is sad, but the truth. To buy more drugs, we have to spend less elsewhere.
It's worrisome then when we get lobbyist's from American drug companies suggesting that we need to get rid of it. I think there is a case to be made for the fact that drugs are incredibly more expensive to buy in the US than Canada being common knowledge. Even the Simpsons have made an episode extracting the urine on that topic. Pharmac doesn't get us everything we need, but that's because we don't have enough money. It does get us a good baseline of drugs, part of making sure that everyone has access to a good baseline level of medical services. To get rid of it would remove that baseline and healthcare would move that much closer to what it is in the states: for the rich.

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