By Mina Mawani, President and CEO of Crohn's and Colitis Canada
Last November, I penned an opinion piece for the Vancouver Sun titled, Crohn's and Colitis Canada calls on B.C. to mandate 'No Forced Switch'
. In the months since, policymakers across the country have taken notice of our advocacy campaign. To date, more than 4,500 letters have reached the offices of elected officials who now have a better understanding of the needs of people living with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. But the stakes are still high. This is especially true in British Columbia, which will soon see a new administration.
We cannot allow PharmaCare to force any of the 25,000 British Columbians living with Crohn's or colitis to give up a treatment that's working well in exchange for a lower cost alternative. This is a possibility in the province and a worrying prospect for people who have finally found stability. There's no better time than right now to raise your voice to keep this issue top of mind.
Canada has one of the highest rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world. Nearly 250,000 Canadians live with one of these chronic diseases which cause frequent and urgent washroom trips, fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain, internal bleeding, and unintended weight loss. While we still don't know an exact cause, researchers believe the diseases are triggered by a combination of elements, including genetics, environmental factors, and abnormal immune system responses.
Living with Crohn's or colitis can be debilitating and there are no cures, but medications can stabilize a patient's condition and allow him or her to lead an active, healthy, and fulfilling life. This is the goal for all patients, but there are no one-size-fits-all treatments. It can take many years for a person with Crohn's or colitis to find a drug that works for them, and more often than not this means a process of trial and error. Switching medications can jeopardize long-term remission, cause stress, and lead to unnecessary flare-ups. Once a patient has found remission, the last thing they want is to put their stability at risk.
For this reason, we believe that doctors and their patients have the right to remain on a treatment option best suited to a patient's individual circumstances, without undue interference from government or private payers. We are calling on British Columbia to take Nova Scotia's lead in protecting doctor-patient decision-making and mandating 'No Forced Switch'.
Crohn's and Colitis Canada will always celebrate the introduction of safe, effective, and more affordable treatment options. New treatments hold great promise for patients in Canada, especially for people who have failed to respond to existing therapies and are running out of options. However, treatment decisions must never be made on the basis of cost alone. The decision to change treatments should only be made by patients in consultation with their doctors.
We are asking for a 'No Forced Switch' policy to help ensure the best interest of the patient remains at the heart of every treatment decision.