Coalition Calls on CADTH to Balance Scales and Fix System

OTTAWAMay 10, 2017  – Canada’s advocacy coalition for people living with depression says the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) has an opportunity, right now, to make a real difference in the lives of millions of Canadians who rely on public access to depression medications. CADTH can help to fix the system that reviews and recommends which drugs get public drug plan coverage by including the very people who have direct experience with depression on its board and committees.

This bold move by Canadians for Equitable Access to Depression Medication (CEADM) comes on the final day of CADTH’s call for nominations.

“CADTH was created in 1989 by Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments to provide a coordinated approach to assessing health technologies. The intent was to harness Canadian expertise from every region in order to produce evidence-informed solutions that benefit patients across the country,” says Phil Upshall, one of three members of CEADM’s national leadership team.

“Given that CADTH’s role is to approve new and innovative medications, including those designed to treat depression and other mental illnesses, why aren’t mental health experts and people who are living with depression included as decision-makers through full membership on CADTH’s board and various committees?” Mr. Upshall asks.

One possible outcome of their exclusion, he says, is that millions of Canadians who don’t have the benefit of private drug plan coverage are not getting the treatment they need for their depression. “We’re talking about single parents, seniors, veterans, Indigenous peoples, the self-employed, unemployed, people on low incomes, the homeless – folks who rely on the public system and don’t have access to the innovative drugs they need.”

Since 2004, 100 percent of the new medications for major depressive disorder have been rejected for public drug plan coverage, says CEADM. The agency’s review process record is also lacking, with reviews of mental health drugs taking 242 days on average, compared to the 192-day average for reviews of non-mental health drugs. It is CEADM’s position that the inclusion of people with direct experience — mental health professionals with psychiatric experience and people who live with major depression — on CADTH’s board and committees could help fix that.

“CADTH’s history of recommending the most appropriate medications for public drug plan coverage is extremely poor,” adds Ann Marie MacDonald, also a member of CEADM’s team. “Given that CADTH is a key resource to the health care system, and given the federal government’s bold leadership stand for mental health, it’s time for CADTH to also take a bold step, and include, as decision-makers to its boards and committees, the very people who have first-hand knowledge about depression,” she says.

Depression is a complex illness, exhibiting 227 different combinations of symptoms. The latest innovative medications designed to treat depression recognize this complexity — and that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to treatment. “By not approving the coverage of these medications in the public drug plan system, CADTH is effectively creating a two-tier drug plan system, where people whose medications are covered by private drug plans can access the treatment they need, but those on public plans can’t. This is neither fair nor right,” adds Mr. Upshall.

Psychiatrists can provide valuable expertise to CADTH’s discussions around efficacy and treatment. And, when it comes to understanding depression, who better to communicate this than people who live with this complex illness?

“Patients’ experiences can add a unique perspective during the evaluation process,” says Jeff Moat, a CEADM national leadership team member. “Consumers also have a key role to play in helping to shape CADTH’s decision-making process, where the patient voice is needed to advocate for continued and improved access to medication in Canada.”

According to CEADM, bringing the patient and mental health voice to the CADTH decision-making table will help balance the scales in what is currently an unfair system — and go a long way to addressing what is a significant public health issue of the 21st century, where one in four people suffer from mental illness.

For further information: For more information / interviews: Joan Weinman, 613-294-5679.


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