On learning that Quebec spends much more per capita on drugs than the Canadian average, Yves Bolduc, Quebec’s Minister of Health and Social Services, proclaimed that he wanted everyone to know that this was GOOD NEWS and that he was happy to see that Quebec was ahead of the other provinces. He added that in Quebec people take the drugs they need for their diseases while in the other provinces they don’t take the drugs they need and as a result their high blood pressure and cholesterol problem aren’t treated. He also thinks that spending more on drugs is economic because more drugs mean less is spent in other treatments.
Lets examine the Minister’s logic.
If Quebec is ahead of other provinces, in what respect is it ahead? Quebec has the same life expectancy as Ontario but less than British Columbia who spend much less on drugs. Nova Scotia which spends the most on drugs has one of the lowest life expectancies in Canada. So, there is no correlation between drug consumption and the best measure of overall health, life expectancy.
Bolduc says that drugs are needed to treat high blood pressure and cholesterol. Not true. Lifestyle change is far more efficient and cheaper than drugs for treating these “diseases” that are in most cases just symptoms of self-destructive lifestyles. He wouldn’t dare say that all weaned citizens of Quebec should follow a low-fat Mediterranean type diet, eat no junk food and have a waist circumference less than half their height before even considering drugs for lifestyle diseases, like hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Political disaster. If he did so, the highways of Quebec would be instantly blockaded by pig and dairy farmers. All fast food franchise owners, restaurant owners, junk food producers, their employees and their families would never vote Liberal.
There is not a shred of evidence that spending more on drugs for the diseases of lifestyle to which he refers translates into less spending on other treatment for these diseases.
So why does the Minister like more drug sales in Quebec and everywhere else? Maybe it’s because drug marketing is the largest industry on the west half of the island of Montreal where there are innumerable drug marketing agencies employing thousands of people funded by profits from Big Pharma. If you run a gigantic bureaucracy like the Ministry of Health and Social Services you need a lot of money and all that tax revenue from drug profits helps your Ministry to get bigger and bigger and gives you more power. So buying more drugs is a form of hidden taxation with no significant benefits in most cases. The Minister wouldn’t dare say that most of the expensive drugs are unnecessary and lifestyle change is essential. He would be reducing his own power and making a lot of voters on the West Island, a stronghold of Liberal power, very unhappy.