I would like to respond to and supplement the excellent article in the June 2000 issue of the British Columbia Medical Journal [42(5):241] by Dr Cairns, dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of British Columbia. Dr Carins provides an optimistic snapshot of the future, including a glimpse at more individualized care made available by increased knowledge of genetics and the capabilities of information technology to allow greater monitoring and accountability within the health system.
I can only hope that his vision of a more integrated and systematic approach to disease treatment is realized. Canadian research-based pharmaceutical companies have not only been investing in developing new medicines, but, in addition, have been conducting significant research into integrated disease management. At Merck Frosst Canada & Co., for example, we have supported a number of patient health management projects looking at heart disease, asthma, and osteoporosis. These projects are beginning to show that clear economic and health benefits can be achieved through an integrated approach to care.
Are we doing a good job at preventing and treating diabetes or heart disease in Vancouver, Victoria, or Kamloops? Are we organized to even start to address that question? By properly answering these simple questions, we may prevent or decrease the epidemics Dr Cairns is referring to.
We must reorganize the health system. We need to ensure that it is set up to examine major diseases in a systemic way and that there is ongoing monitoring to continually improve care. At the present time in Canada, the true value of many of the new medicines and cures that are developed by Canadian research-based pharmaceutical companies are not fully realized.
I agree with Dr Cairns that “management and evolution of our health-care system will require joint engagement by politicians, civil servants, administrators, lay boards, the public, and members of the health-care professions.” Since more than 90% of drug treatment available today comes from the biopharmaceutical industry, I would add “researchers and private industry” to his list. We all need to work together to develop strategies that will advance the health of Canadians, advance Canadian science, and support ongoing innovation and economic development.
Executive Director, Corporate Affairs
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