Thursday, January 22, 2009

B.C. plan requiring people to switch to cheaper drugs costs more, study says

From the Canadian Press:
British Columbia's drug coverage plan has cost the province more money than it was supposed to save while worsening patients' health because of a policy that forces them to take cheaper medication for conditions such as acid reflux, says a new study.

Dr. James Gray, a gastroenterologist who co-authored the study, said Thursday the plan that came into effect in 2003 is a failed experiment that put unrealized cost savings ahead of patients' quality of life.

But Health Minister George Abbott disputed the study, saying its methodology is flawed and that other research suggests the government's policy is a success.

Gray said patients who were taking one of four drugs were forced to switch to a fifth medication that was cheaper, even if they were responding well to the original drug, in an effort to save $42 million to the health-care system.

The province's PharmaCare plan would otherwise not have paid for the drugs, he said.

However, patients whose symptoms were not controlled by the substitute drug experienced problems ranging from heartburn, abdominal pain and gastrointestinal bleeding that led to increased doctors' visits and in some cases hospitalization for a cost of $43.5 million, Gray said. ...more

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