Google “pharmacare” – the term given to a universal national drug plan – and Marc-André Gagnon’s name will be at the top of the list, whether these are interviews, op-eds or research studies.
As an associate professor at the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) and a leading authority on how public health policy and the pharmaceutical sector intersect, Professor Gagnon has championed pharmacare as an effective way both to cut the colossal waste found in our current patchwork system and to improve health outcomes.
Moreover, Professor Gagnon says, having a single purchaser for the country will encourage drug companies to develop genuinely innovative products. “More than 80% of new drugs do not provide any new benefits over existing products, even though they are sold at higher prices. This is the result when you have a purchasing system that will pay any price for any drug.”
Professor Gagnon’s other areas of interest include the potential impact of international trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the cost of patented drugs, a more cost-efficient tendering process for generic drugs, and mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical sector.
He is also researching institutional corruption: “Our current system provides huge incentives for drug companies to create bias in the science behind their products, such as through using PR companies to ghostwrite clinical studies and then manage their publication in medical journals as a way of influencing physician prescribing habits.”
Given the enormous amounts of money in Big Pharma – the Canadian prescription drug market was worth about $29 billion in 2013 – and its corporate reach into R&D at universities, Professor Gagnon is vigilant about avoiding conflicts of interest. “I need to remain absolutely independent, and one of the things I really value about Carleton is that there’s a lot of support from the university to maintain this independence. That’s very important to me.”
He adds that rational medication use is not just about reducing costs: “The key issues for public policy are about how we can obtain more therapeutic benefits of drugs and how we can ensure their appropriate use.”
Professor Gagnon appeared recently on a Dutch television program as an international expert on the issue of financial business models in the pharmaceutical sector. You can see that interview here.
His testimony on the price of generics before the Quebec Parliament also received media coverage. You can find that here.
Professor Gagnon presented his research alongside other experts from the multidisciplinary Rational Therapeutics and Medication Policy Group at their inaugural symposium on February 26 as part of FPA Research Month.
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