HealthcarePapers 3(1) July 2002 : 70-76.doi:10.12927/hcpap..16913

Managing Healthcare Costs Within An Integrated Framework

Rudy Fernandes


Laupacis, Anderson and O'Brien's comprehensive diagnosis of the illness affecting the Canadian healthcare system is very insightful. In addition, their call for improving the quality of drug evidence and outcomes is a laudable goal. However, their prognosis of the negative impact on healthcare due to escalating drug costs appears to be rather pessimistic, as they fail to view drugs within an integrated framework. In part, their prescription for the perceived malady is rather impractical. Their recommendation for mandatory head-to-head randomized studies, as a prerequisite for achieving new drug listing in benefit formularies, suffers from many drawbacks. Such studies would be highly time-consuming, extremely costly, and given the fact that the choice of a drug comparator is a "moving target," the end result may not achieve the original intent.

Growing anxieties about the rising healthcare costs in Canada, now forecast to reach C$100 billion in 2002, have led to implementation of a variety of reforms aimed at cost-cutting. Shifts in drug utilization, demographics and prescribing have contributed to the authors' understandable concern about the rapid rise in drug plan expenditure, which has undeniably outpaced the increases of other healthcare components. However, drug plan costs represent only 7.7% of total provincial/territorial healthcare expenditures. Innovative medicines have played a significant role in reducing the burden of illness and overall healthcare costs. Drugs prevent, treat and cure disease, improve quality of life, control pain/suffering and save lives. Despite their great value, spending on drugs has received particular scrutiny from policy-makers, and pharmaceuticals have become the primary cost-containment target.

The authors' goal-oriented concept of creating a clinical milieu that encourages cost-effective prescribing via "optimum" drug use is very attractive. One such approach is Disease Management, which relies on evidence-based, outcome-oriented performance indicators. It is highly regarded for promoting effective treatment options, improving patient care and optimizing healthcare resource utilization - hence deserving serious consideration for reducing overall costs while achieving improved outcomes.



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