Big Pharma’s big shadow

Ottawa’s refusal to play ball on pharmacare at this week’s summit cannot simply be reduced to bargaining tactics in the same old national bickerfest between Ottawa and the provinces, argued Tony Clarke, director of the Polaris Institute in Ottawa, in an opinion piece in the Toronto Star Sept. 15. Instead, it may have more to do with powerful pressures being exerted behind the scenes by the pharmaceutical industry. Clarke bolstered his argument with two references to York research that generic drugs are cheaper. “According to York University’s School of Health Policy & Management,” he wrote, “the average cost per claim in 1997 ranged from $92.56 for a patented drug to $22.94 for the generic version.” And “brand-name pharmaceutical corporations are counting on insurance policies they have already taken out in the form of political donations. Between 1993 and 2002, Big Pharma corporations contributed well over $1 million to the governing Liberal party, says Robert MacDermid, political science professor at York’s Faculty of Arts, who monitors political party donations in Canada.”

In a related item, Dr. Joel Lexchin, a health policy professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, discussed how Canadians spend more on prescription drugs than on other health-care items, including doctors, on OMNI.2’s “OMNI News: South Asian Edition”, Sept. 14.

Put bus lanes on Steeles

“While bus/streetcar lanes on Yonge Street, Highway 7 and St. Clair Avenue are, indeed, greatly needed as these are major commuter routes, there is another route that is in dire need of separate bus lanes that has been completely overlooked: Steeles Avenue West,” wrote a Toronto Star reader in a letter printed Sept. 15. “Steeles is a unique route, as it is on the city boundary and a number of different bus systems use it. Also, a huge number of York University commuters rely heavily on this route to get to class on time. Each and every person on a bus or streetcar is doing his or her part in helping to reduce traffic congestion, so why should it take them just as long to get where they are going as those who are in cars?”

History of her town

In a profile of Maple Grove Sept. 15, The Windsor Star mentioned a 388-page history of the once-thriving community by Dorothy St. John, who grew up nearby. The history graduate (BA ’76) from York University has recently published The Sheep Ranch: A History of the Community of Maple Grove. St. John has two other degrees from York: a BEd in 1985 and a BA in film and video in 1987.

On air

  • Olympian Karen Cockburn showed off her trampoline talents for fellow students at York University, reported Toronto 1’s “Toronto Tonight” Sept. 14. York honoured Canada’s Olympic trampoline silver medalist, reported City-tv’s “CityPulse.”
  • Debra Pepler, a psychology professor in the Faculty of Arts, discussed bullying, on TVO’s “More To Life” Sept. 14.