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B.C. Minister of Health: approvals for expensive treatment must be based on evidence, affordability

Last Updated Jul 1, 2019 at 3:32 pm PST

FILE: Health Minister Adrian Dix speaks at a news conference on April 4, 2018. (Kurtis Doering, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

One drug in particular, used to treat Spinal Muscular Atrophy could cost more than $350,000 per year

Dix says decisions can't be based on media attention, but rather clinical evidence proving treatments are effective

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As pressure mounts for the government to cover more expensive treatments for rare diseases, B.C.’s Health Minister, Adrian Dix, says approval must be based on clinical evidence and affordability.

“Pharmaceutical companies place a high price and then use a certain public relations campaign to press governments to fund at that price,” he says. “And if we’re going to have more care for more people, we’re going to have to also ask questions of them, as well.”

One drug in particular, used to treat Spinal Muscular Atrophy, could cost more than $350,000 per year. In October, Spinraza was approved for use to treat that degenerative disease, but Dix admits funding is limited.

RELATED: B.C. to fund drug that fights spinal disease in infants

“We’ve got to be systematic in the way we deal with these things and I say that with great respect for everybody involved,” he says, adding cost has to be considered.

Dix says decisions can’t be based on media attention, but rather clinical evidence proving treatments are indeed effective.

“That’s the right way to do it. It’s not how the minister may be lobbied, but to go through a systematic approach in the case of drugs that have both enormous costs and where you have to assess the impacts of those drugs, we have people who are clinical experts.”

He adds those drug companies charging hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for their medications need to bring those costs down, and more support is needed from Ottawa as the country moves closer to setting up national Pharmacare.