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Pharmaceutical alliance seeks to streamline provincial drug procedures

For students, filling prescriptions every month or after an unexpected illness can be a significant financial burden. The pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) might lighten that load.

Dean Eurich, Associate Professor at the School of Public Health, said the pCPA was created to streamline the process by which prescription drugs are approved for coverage under provincial healthcare plans.

“Historically, the manufacturer would go to every province separately and try to negotiate that agreement,” Eurich said. “Through this pCPA, they are trying to band together as a larger group, talk it over with manufacturers as a whole, and then hopefully get better pricing out of it as well.”

The pCPA was established in 2015 and recently underwent a study of data collected from all participant provinces. The three primary goals of possibly streamlining the process include identifying which drugs are covered by provincial health care systems, decreasing the time it takes these drugs to reach patients and providing more affordable medications via bulk were investigated.

The study concluded that the pCPA has not made major improvements in time taken to bring drugs to patients or the number of drugs on the provincial formulary, the list of medicines available. Despite this, Eurich said that change is coming.

“If we look at the last year or so of data, the process has become more streamlined, and the drugs are coming out faster and more consistently across the provinces,” Eurich said. “Also, (the pCPA) have reported that they have saved consumers over $80 million through improved negotiation, if that’s accurate, it’s a great thing for consumers.”

The is the list of pharmaceuticals which are subsidized by the provincial healthcare system. For Eurich, expanding the formulary, is key to improvement of care for all.

“Those decisions at the provincial level trickle down to private plans,” Eurich said. “If you want to have the best drugs covered by your student plan, for example, the best thing for it is to have it covered by the formulary.”

Once drugs are subsidized at some level by various coverage providers, the out-of-pocket cost to patients is reduced, thereby lessening the impact of chronic or unexpected health issues on sufferers. For Eurich, the pCPA needs more time to improve its methodology before final judgment on it is rendered.

“I would hope that in another three to five years, someone does this study again and sees a real improvement in how we get drugs to consumers,” Eurich said. “I’d like to see that whole process streamlined, because right now there is a lot of bureaucracy in the system of getting drugs to market and into the hands of clinicians.”

Though it has not yet achieved all of its initial aims, the pCPA aims to provide improved drug access for all of its members, Eurich added.

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