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Your Money Or Your Life

6 December 2010

"They Put A Price On Human Life", screamed the headlines of the Toronto Star (Nov 20/2010). The thrust of the article was that people are dying because they cannot afford drugs that will keep them alive. Though this may be news to The Star, it isn't to anyone who knows how capitalism works.

Two typical examples were given. Deborah Warkus, a fifty-year-old mother who died from breast cancer because she did not have the $4 000 a month for the drug, Tykerb, which would have kept her alive and Lucas Maciesza, 26, who was dying for want of the drug Solaris that costs $50 000 a year.

Four years ago, a drug reform plan, which included bulk purchasing and the elimination of professional allowances to pharmacists, was introduced. Now, here at last, was a reform that worked and very well for the Ontario government in their attempts to run capitalism; it saved them $1 billion, which should have been used to add new, sometimes expensive, drugs to the Ontario Drug Benefits Program. Try telling that to the families of Warkus and Maciesza.

"This is injustice, is the government playing God? The drugs are available, they've put a price on human life," said Gail Colin, a fifty-three year old breast cancer patient who gets Tykerb free through a clinical trial. Nor can one attack the Ontario government alone. The Maciesza family has been all over the world trying to save Lucas from paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH), a very rare bone marrow disease that affects ninety Canadians. It causes oxygen-carrying red blood cells to self-destruct and form deadly blood clots.

Solaris is the only drug available that prevents the self-destruction of red blood cells and reduces blood clots, kidney failure, strokes, and heart attacks. While Health Canada approved it, Ontario does not cover the costs. Oddly, a North Bay resident, Norma Metz, is receiving Solaris at no cost, because her local hospital ‘has the extra money in its budget' to do so. It seems that getting rare, expensive drugs depends on luck! One may wonder if so few Canadians suffer from PNH that the federal and provincial governments jointly foot the bill to save lives? It would cost $45 million a year, a mere drop in the ocean to what is spent on war. Sorry, war is too important, and they need every penny for it!

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