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The Canadian Pharmacists Association estimates that 'half of Canadian adults take at least one prescription drug, while 40 per cent of seniors and those with chronic diseases take four or more.'Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Not all Canadians, not all drugs

The notion that national pharmacare will be a panacea with an open-ended formulary (list of drugs) for all conditions is one of the bigger myths in the Canadian pharmacare debate.

In the interim report from the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, the council indicated strong support for the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH). This is the same agency that provided input for the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program’s “no” decision in Kelly Grant’s article, Cracks In The System: Without A National Pharmacare Strategy, Who Is Left Behind? (May 14).

CADTH does a thorough review of evidence and considers clinical- and cost-effectiveness in its recommendations. Ottawa has indicated that under a proposed national pharmacare plan, the new system would continue to use the agency as part of a central authority reviewing drugs.

In a system with as many as 70 new drugs coming to market each year, some costing more than $1-million per patient, per year, the government must make decisions based on evidence, societal values, and sustainability. National pharmacare does not mean all Canadians will be covered for every drug.

An achievable step would be pharmacare coverage for the 10- to 12-per-cent who lack coverage. That should be the real focus of Canada’s pharmaceutical policy framework.

Helen Stevenson, CEO, Reformulary Group; former CEO, Ontario Public Drug Programs

Disgruntled for a reason

Re Power Corp. Co-CEOs Face Disgruntled Shareholders ( May 15): I was glad a large minority of public shareholders voted against reappointing co-CEOs Paul Desmarais Jr. and André Desmarais to the board. I was one of those minority shareholders, again.

No employees of publicly traded companies should be on the company’s board of directors. Directors should be recommended and selected by shareholders only, not by the corporation’s CEO or its compliant directors.

Too many corporate governance and executive compensation issues are under the control of CEOs. It’s a clear conflict of interest and it’s time for larger shareholders, such as fund managers, to get on the side of smaller shareholders and press for significant governance changes to fix that.

The share price has gone nowhere for many years. People have held on to the shares for the dividend yield, which is also why so few shares were recently tendered, not as a vote of confidence for the Desmarais brothers.

Catherine Lowes, Toronto

Jet fighters. Why?

Re Canada’s Fighter Jets (May 15): The never-ending debate about a replacement for Canada’s F-18s seems to evade what should be the central issue: How might this expensive hardware be used in a future conflict?

It is hard to see how fighter jets can play a useful role in either a nuclear war delivered by long-range missiles, or in a war with conventional weapons such as drones. We are planning now for the next 50 years, not looking at the world as it was in 1970.

When one thinks of the pressing need for funding for a national pharmacare program or an affordable, high-quality early-learning and child-care program, spending billions of dollars on a military acquisition of questionable value really sticks in the throat.

David Goodings, Burlington, Ont.

You can’t eat respect

Re It’s Uber And Lyft’s Job As Leaders In The Gig Economy To Build Better Algorithms (May 14): Nura Jabagi questions if money is enough to solve the companies’ problems with drivers, and says what these drivers really need is respect and empowerment.

My experience with these “independent contractors” is that many are driving 10 hours a day, seven days a week and have no idea if they are really ahead after paying operating expenses, and factoring in their own long hours worked. These companies can build algorithms all day long, but you can’t eat respect and empowerment. And their drivers are starting to figure this out.

Larry Howorth, Surrey, B.C.

Kindness. Every day

I have tears in my eyes after reading a mother’s First Person essay, Playground Politics (May 16), about her child’s struggles to be accepted. The author and some mothers have come up with an excellent idea to encourage kindness in schools – perform three acts of kindness every day. In my mind, all schools across our country should adopt that model. We’ll have more acceptance of people’s differences in time, and eventually a more peaceful world. We truly need to start young to save our future generations.

Nasreen Jamal Kurji, Calgary


A lovely program called Best Buddies exists in Fredericton (and elsewhere); students buddy up with other students so they aren’t isolated and can make friends. Roots of Empathy is an excellent program for elementary and middle school students, teaching empathy with a baby. Yes, kindness can be taught, and it makes all the difference in the world.

Marg Milburn, Fredericton

Battling smallpox

Re: Variolated, Engrafted (letters, May 17): Letter writer Catherine Peel is right in commending Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s early acceptance of inoculation, well before Edward Jenner’s experiment with “cowpox.” Letter writer Morley Lertzman’s point that “the first to publish” gets the credit must be qualified: Jenner was the first with medical qualifications to publish, when women weren’t allowed in medical school.

Mary Astell, who knew Lady Mary, published on the success of inoculation against smallpox with cowpox in 1724, long before Jenner, and indeed before Lady Mary (whose letters were published posthumously). Astell made the point, citing comparative death data with and without inoculation, in a progressive magazine, The Plain Dealer. She strongly advocated inoculation against smallpox “to prevent the usual danger and malignancy … the fatality and the sorrow, which have heretofore gone along with it.”

Astell might have had “anti-vaxxers” in mind when she went on to say: “Yet with what violence and malice has it not been railed at and opposed? How many false affirmations have we seen with unblushing boldness, insulting truth, in our public newspapers!”

Lynn McDonald, author, The Early Origins of the Social Sciences; Toronto

Bliss in the church of art

Re I.M. Pei, World-Renowned Architect, Dies At 102 (May 17): To stand in the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, looking up at the Alexander Calder mobile, is to experience perfect bliss. Or, as Robert Hughes put it: One can experience the wonders of entering the Church of Art without actually having to pray. Would that Toronto had such a masterpiece.

Jennifer McKinney, Belle River, Ont.

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