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Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis

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Potential for universal drug coverage in Canada subject of Labelle lecture

22 Sep 2011

A researcher with expertise in pharmaceutical policy will describe how the changing market for generic drugs presents a unique opportunity for Canadian governments to introduce universal coverage, at the 20th Annual Labelle Lectureship.

Michael Law, a faculty member with the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at UBC, will be the guest lecturer at the event on Oct. 5, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

While Canadian medicare has historically provided universal first-dollar coverage for physician and hospital services, public coverage for prescription drugs is limited. This mix of public and private insurance left Canadians paying $4.6 billion out of their own pockets for prescription drugs last year. Law will share his recent research that estimates this expense resulted in more than two million Canadians not taking their medications as prescribed.

There have been numerous recommendations to expand public drug coverage over the past 70 years. However, the costs of such reform have long been seen as a barrier to policy action. Law will use research he has conducted to argue that there is now a unique window of opportunity to bring about change, and that providing universal coverage for some drugs in a politically saleable fashion that would both save money and improve the health of Canadians.

The discussant for the lecture is Helen Stevenson, president and CEO of the Reformulary Group Inc., a company dedicated to helping manage prescription drug costs for employer drug plans. She has previously worked as executive officer of Ontario Public Drug Programs, and an assistant deputy minister of health in Ontario.

The lecture will take place in room 1A1 of the Health Sciences Centre. All are welcome to attend.

Law, who is also an assistant professor in the School of Population and Public Health at UBC, is a health services researcher who specializes in program evaluation, research methods and statistics. His research interests focus on pharmaceutical policy evaluation, direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and private drug coverage in Canada.

He earned his PhD in Health Policy from Harvard University, a M.Sc. in health population and society from the London School of Economics, and is a graduate of McMaster’s Arts and Sciences program. Before joining UBC, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Drug Policy Research Group at Harvard Medical School, and a research associate at the Centre for Health Services Research and Policy at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

The Labelle Lectureship is an annual event organized by CHEPA, the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatics, and the Programs for Assessment of Technology in Health Research Institute. It was established in 1992 in memory of Roberta Labelle, a founding member of CHEPA who died in 1991. The annual lectureship features a health services researcher with emerging recognition and an interdisciplinary approach to research.

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