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Ont. doctor says physicians need to know the prices of drugs

Ont. doctor says physicians need to know the prices of drugs
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A Toronto doctor wants to know why Ontario family physicians have no easy way to check how much a medication will cost their patients before they prescribe them.

Dr. Iris Gorfinkel told CTVs Your Morning that the impact of doctors not knowing drug costs is massive. She says, when patients dont realize they cant afford their meds until they are at the pharmacy counter, they often choose to simply not take the meds -- sometimes with devastating effects.

Dr. Gorfinkel says she recently had one patient who wasnt old enough to qualify for the Ontario Drug Benefit, but needed to take a variety of medications after a heart attack. The cost of the drugs totalled more than $400 a month.

When the patient had another heart attack just a few months later, Gorfinkel learned she wasnt taking her medications because she couldnt afford them. She also later learned that she had prescribed the patient a drug that cost $170 for a three-month supply, when a generic alternative existed for $35. But Gorfinkel didnt know.

Thats why she would like to see the Ontario government change the system so that the cost of a medication is automatically included in a patients electronic medical records. That way, when doctors prescribe a drug, they know right away whether the patient will be able to afford it.

As it is currently, family doctors can use databases to look up a drugs price. But the process is time-consuming and, with most appointments lasting only minutes, Gorfinkel says she would rather spend her time attending to her patients needs.

She says the system needs to be simpler so that she can know right away if a drug is too expensive and whether it would be better to prescribe a generic drug, or go with a less-expensive alternative.

Gorfinkel notes this is an issue that doesnt just affect those on low or fixed incomes.

Even when patients can afford a drug, I would argue they have the right to know what options there are, she said.

The Ontario Medial Association backs Gorfinkels proposal to add drug costs to a patients electronic medical record. So do the Nurse Practitioners Association of Ontario and the Ontario Pharmacists Association.

Dr. Gorfinkel has been calling for change for months and has met with Ministry of Health officials to discuss her proposal. A press secretary for the ministry says they are considering next steps.

But Gorfinkel is puzzled as to why change is taking so long.

Its interesting because everyone is on board with the idea. Everybody readily acknowledges the importance of this. And yet theres an inertia to change, she said.
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