Canadian drug spending soars

Canada’s legal drug costs are growing faster than any other area of health spending, with the national bill for everything from heart pills to headache remedies reaching nearly $22 billion last year – 3 1/2 times what it was 20 years ago, reported CanWest News Service in a story carried on the front pages of the National Post and The Montreal Gazette April 6. “The $22 billion is a mixed blessing,” said Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management and an outspoken critic of the pharmaceutical industry. “If you talk to people who have serious medical problems – things like congestive heart failure – they’re probably, for the most part, better off for using the medications that they’ve got, and some of [their drugs] are newer.” On the other hand, he said, “if you talk to people who took Vioxx and suffered the consequences, then they’re not nearly as well off as if they had taken simple Advil, which costs about one-10th the amount.”

York plans carpools if TTC workers strike

The city is braced for traffic chaos should a TTC strike be called, reported the Toronto Star April 6. About 50,000 students at York University, heading into exams, are also getting carpool information because 1,000 bus trips a day may end. “There are plans underway for ride matching,” said York senior policy adviser Ted Spence.

Anxious about interest? Rates are more than just one number

Although the US Federal Reserve is widely expected to continue raising short-term interest rates throughout this year, financial experts say the typical Canadian borrower needn’t be too concerned, reported Canadian Press April 6. For one thing, the Bank of Canada appears to be raising its historically low rates at a more moderate pace than its American counterpart and, for another, there is a wide range of rates available – and not all are going up. Moshe Milevsky, a professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, said “the biggest, absolutely the biggest, misconception on the part of students, as well as the public, is they think interest rates are just one number. The truth is interest rates can go up and down at the same day at the same time because there are so many types of interest rate.”

Turnover is rampant in advertising

The people who run Canada’s ad agencies say that retaining employees is a key priority for them, reported The Globe and Mail April 6. But industry observers say the high turnover rate suggests that they need to pay a lot more attention to it. “Imagine a third of your staff turning over every year,” said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business and the former president of a Toronto ad agency. “If it’s not absolutely the worst industry for retention, I would say it’s one of the worst.”

Make your point enthusiastically

An article on presentations in the “Naturejobs” section of Nature magazine March 17 cited Michael De Robertis, astronomer in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering: “The right amount of enthusiasm conveys that a speaker thinks the science ‘is worth doing, likes doing it, and would like doing it in your lab or department, too,” De Robertis said. Alternatively, he said, “no matter who you are, if you go over the time limit, the majority of the people in the room start tensing up and erasing the talk from their memory.”

On air

  • A “CTV News” interview with Pat Lakin-Thomas, a biology professor from York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, about how to feel less tired following Daylight Saving Time was aired April 5 on CTV affililiates in Calgary and British Columbia.