Drug Pricing in Canada Summit Focuses on Action
On November 15 and 16, 2016, the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO), Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN), Save Your Skin Foundation and other patient groups came together to present the “Drug Pricing in Canada: Mobilizing Patients to Action” summit.
“SSO’s relationship with CCSN began with our policy paper Prescription for Holistic Care: Improving Access to Medications Through Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy
, where we connected with Louise Binder, a health policy consultant for CCSN, who was helpful with connecting SSO with other patient groups working on access to medications,” says Antonella Scali, SSO’s policy analyst. “SSO participated in other events across illness groups where we realized that drug pricing was a rising concern for individuals.”
The summit featured a variety of panelists from various areas within Canadian drug pricing, including key stakeholders from the public and private sector payers, pharmaceutical industry, healthcare professionals, and researchers. Attendees were able to examine how they can meaningfully participate in and impact the regulatory, public and private policy environments that shape drug pricing in Canada.
“Many people don’t know a lot about drug pricing policy and its effects on the price of medications,” says Antonella. “The more people know, the more they can speak up to make valid changes.”
Jamie Kellar, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, focused specifically on medications for individuals living with mental illness during her panel. She outlined the unique challenges for people in need of mental health medication, for example many individuals are given these medications in hospital and when they are discharged they do not have stable housing. The most effective drug on the market for schizophrenia and psychosis, clozapine, can only be distributed in hospital and is expensive.
“The human brain is complicated. Researchers are still trying to find drugs that are able to allow people to get better instead of just managing symptoms,” Jamie said. “We need advocates who push for research dollars to keep exploring the brain in order to create even better medications for people who need them.”
Following the panels, attendees were given the opportunity to come together in small groups to discuss what they just heard as well as strategies going forward.
“We wanted attendees to feel like they were leaving with concrete action steps they could use to make changes. The breakout groups following each panel allowed attendees to speak to people from different patient groups to discuss their unique challenges, discover issues they have in common and work through possible solutions,” Antonella says. “At the end of the day, we had many people volunteer for multi-patient working committees that will advocate on specific areas of the system in 2017.”
The patient groups developed a work plan based on the issues that they determined were relevant to them based on the panel discussions.
SSO will continue to work with CCSN and Save Your Skin Foundation to work with the newly formed working committees to move forward on policy areas, as well as to develop a second annual summit in 2017.