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  • Writer's pictureThe Gryphon Group

Breaking Down Barriers in Medicine Access: Challenges and Solutions

Breaking Down Barriers in Medicine Access: Challenges and Solutions

Access to essential medicines is a fundamental component of global health security and well-being. Yet, numerous barriers—stemming from both market dynamics and governmental policies—often hinder the seamless delivery of these vital resources to the people who need them most.

At The Gryphon Group, we are deeply committed to understanding and addressing these challenges. In this post, we will explore both challenges and solutions, with an eye toward the current conversation in Canada about a national pharmacare plan.

Understanding the Barriers

1. Regulatory Hurdles

Healthcare regulations, while necessary for ensuring safety and efficacy, can sometimes delay the introduction of new drugs to the market. Lengthy approval processes and stringent patent laws can restrict access to affordable generics and innovative treatments alike. 

2. Market Challenges

High development costs and the pursuit of profits often lead pharmaceutical companies to focus on markets that can ensure higher returns, sometimes at the expense of underserved populations. Additionally, the lack of competition in certain therapeutic areas can lead to monopolistic pricing, further limiting access.

3. Global Disparities

Disparities in healthcare infrastructure and funding between developed and developing countries exacerbate access issues. Wealthier nations have the power to negotiate lower prices and subsidize medicines, while poorer regions face shortages and inflated costs.

Proposing Solutions

1. Streamlining Regulatory Processes

Governments should do their best to reduce unnecessary delays while ensuring that safety remains paramount. Special provisions, such as conditional approvals for critical treatments, can be instrumental in balancing timely access with patient safety. 

Beyond initial approval, it’s important to consider how insurance coverage might influence access and usage of innovative medicines. For example, less than half of new drugs approved for the Canadian market over the past decade are covered under public prescription drug plans, placing those medicines out of reach for many patients who might benefit from them.

3. Implementing Tiered Pricing Models

Pharmaceutical companies can adopt tiered pricing strategies, offering medicines at different price points in various regions based on purchasing power. This model can expand access while preserving market incentives for innovation.

4. Strengthening Healthcare Systems

Investing in healthcare infrastructure is crucial. This includes not only physical infrastructure but also training healthcare professionals and improving supply chain efficiency.

These efforts are most urgently needed in developing countries, but developed countries like Canada are not exempt. Limited capacity in Canada’s healthcare system is cutting patients off from the medicines they desperately need. Disparities in cancer survival rates between Canada and the U.S. indicate that thousands of lives are needlessly being lost each year—with a lack of access to lifesaving treatments a major contributing factor.

5. Promoting Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)

PPPs can leverage the strengths of both sectors (public and private) to improve medicine access. These collaborations can focus on research and development, manufacturing, and distribution mechanisms tailored to the needs of underserved populations. In particular, Canada sorely needs to increase its focus on drug development; of the 20 OECD countries that report public funding for effective new drugs, Canada ranks second-to-last.

An overarching principle to keep in mind is to avoid overengineered solutions that may sound good in principle but end up impacting the consumer in detrimental ways. In Alberta Province, for example—where the provincial premier announced intentions to opt out of the federal prescription drug plan amid Canada’s efforts to implement national pharmacare—63% of the population is covered by a private prescription drug insurance plan. Forcing people with private coverage into the federal plan could actually reduce their medicine access, since private insurers in Alberta cover nearly 9,000 unique medications. The drug insurance plan offered by the provincial government, by way of comparison, covers less than half that number, a recent Montreal Economic Institute study found—meaning that people might suddenly lose coverage for many medications if required to switch to the public plan. An attempt to increase access for some people is not a “win” if it significantly reduces access for others.

The challenges of accessing essential medicines are multifaceted, involving complex interplays between market forces and regulatory frameworks. However, by adopting a multipronged strategy that includes regulatory reforms, market incentives, and global cooperation, we can make significant strides toward ensuring that everyone, regardless of where they live, has access to the medicines they need. At The Gryphon Group, we remain dedicated to playing our part in this global effort, driving forward solutions that reflect our commitment to health equity and patient care. 

In addition, as a Canadian company, we are passionate about moving the needle for improved access and patient outcomes in our home market. Canada has gone from ranking seventh in the world for life expectancy 30 years ago to ranking 16th in the world today. We are moving in the wrong direction, and The Gryphon Group is dedicated to helping reverse that trend.

Get Involved

We invite you to join the conversation and share your thoughts on how we can collectively work towards breaking down the barriers to medicine access. Contact The Gryphon Group for more information on our efforts.

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