Canada’s drug bill could be cut if doctors knew prices

Soaring drug bills in Canada could be cut if doctors simply paid attention to the cost of the medications they prescribe, says a new federal report. The study, commissioned by Industry Canada and doneby IMS Health Consulting Inc., found that Canadian physicians are generally oblivious to drug prices and often prescribe an expensive pharmaceutical when a cheap one would do, reported Canadian Press Oct. 21. The IMS findings mirror those of Dr. Joel Lexchin, co-author of a study last month that demonstrated just how little physicians know about drug prices. Lexchin’s paper, written with G. Michael Allan and Natasha Wiebe, concludes that doctors’ ignorance of costs "could have profound implications for overall drug expenditures. Much more focus is required in the education of physicians about costs and access to costinformation." Lexchin, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, notes that other brand-name drugs in a class sometimes do work better for patients than cheaper generics, "but most of the time they don’t," and the extra dollars are wasted.

Struggling home-care system stretched to the limit

Advocates, nurses and health-care academics agree the province’s home-care system is stressed, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 22. Health Ministry figures show the number of clients has jumped 75 per cent over the past four years, while funding has risen 30 per cent. Those interviewed say the problems include staffing shortages caused by shrinking wages, piecework instead of full-time jobs, growing workloads and less skilled, lower-paid support workers replacing nurses. Ontario-wide, the Ministry of Health reports there were 4,062 complaints in 2004-05 and 3,931 complaints in 2005-06. MP Olivia Chow and others question the complaint numbers. Chow said few people would figure out how to file a complaint with the Community Care Access Centres. York University professor Pat Armstrong, an expert in home care, said many patients have no idea who to call within the system, so complaints are often directed to advocacy groups or researchers.

Dancer wants to teach the world to zombie march to Thriller

On the 25th anniversary of the Michael Jackson classic, a Kitchener dancer is organizing a simultaneous, world-wide project in which fans in 15 countries are set to perform the identical Thriller dance at 6pm EST on Oct. 27 (or Oct. 28, if you’re in Australia), reported the Toronto Sun Oct. 22. Last year, Ines Markeljevic made the Guinness Book of World Records when she had 62 dancers recreate the Thriller moves in an event she titled "Thrill Toronto". Now, she has her sights set on the world. "I was raised on the Thriller album," explains Markeljevic, a chirpy 26-year-old former York University dance student. "I was two years old dancing to Michael Jackson." Markeljevic’s one-woman mission to teach it to the world already has people signed up in more than 85 registered events in over 81 cities in 15 countries on five continents. Schulich School of Business student Polina Rogozhina is organizing the Toronto event at York University. She’s hoping 200 wannabe zombies will show up at 10 a.m. at the Accolade East building to learn the moves, break the record and also raise some money for the Sick Kids Foundation. "My friends are pretty excited," she says. "How often do you have a chance to be part of a Guinness World Record?"

Film noir style on display at art gallery

Film noir is a movie term mostly used to describe stylish crime dramas motivated by greed and jealousy, reported the Toronto Sun Oct. 22. Many of the elements in classic film noir are on display at the O’Connor A Gallery, 145 Berkeley St., until Nov. 4. Mary Dykstra‘s 10-piece exhibition, titled Narcisse Noir, contains paintings full of shadowy figures, Venetian blinds and femme fatales. "A lot of my work is inspired by the visual image and language of cinema," says Dykstra, who lives in Toronto. The exhibit title comes from the name of a perfume first introduced by the House of Caron in 1911. It was Gloria Swanson’s character in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard that enshrined the perfume when in a deep, sultry voice she said, "Black Narcissus, Narcisse Noir." Dykstra graduated with a BFA from York University in 1994 and has been painting professionally ever since.

Free to be she – or he

Perhaps you’ve thought about changing gender, began Deirdre McCloskey in a Globe and Mail review Oct. 20 of books on the subject. The story you’ll learn from these good books, she wrote, is not, as people always think, that a MtF ("male to female": see, you’re learning already) is "a woman trapped in a man’s body." What you’ll learn instead is freedom. That’s all….A guy wants to go to Venice on holiday. Feel free. That’s similar to cross-dressing, like what my friend Michael Gilbert, a brilliant professor of philosophy at York University, does from time to time, quite openly (Michael and I don’t like closets). But one in 500 men, say, wants to go to Venice…and become Venetian. That’s like MtF gender crossing. No one would say the new Venetian was trapped in an Upper Canadian body. He chooses, freely.

Tips on how to improve your audit committee

The corporate scandals of the past few years showed the importance of improving the audit committee, suggested the Globe and Mail Oct. 22. In Ivey Business Journal, Richard Leblanc, an administrative studies professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies who specializes in board functioning, recommends:

  • Have a position description for, and assess the performance of, the audit committee Chair.
  • Members must understand the rationale for management’s choices and the implications for financial manipulation.
  • Members must have independence of thought, judgment and action.
  • Recruit, orient, educate, and retire your members carefully.
  • Organize agendas, documentation and reporting to the board so the committee’s work can be effective.

York grad celebrates Famous Five women crusaders

Canadian women have a history that needs to be acknowledged and celebrated, but don’t crack the champagne quite yet. "This is not a simple or short discussion," said Paulette Senior, chief executive officer of YWCA Canada and a keynote speaker at Friday’s Person’s Day Breakfast in Kitchener, reported The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) Oct. 20. The Canadian government didn’t recognize women as persons until Oct. 18, 1929. That was changed thanks to pressure from the Famous Five – activists Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards. Senior applauded the bravery of the Famous Five, who had faced criticism and endless name-calling but would not be dissuaded. Jamaican-born, Senior came to Canada at age 11, establishing herself as a social and community activist while in university. She holds an honours bachelor’s degree in psychology and urban studies from York University.

On air

  • Political scientist Sergei Plekhanov, coordinator of York’s Post-Communist Studies Program at the York Centre for International & Security Studies, discussed the return of the Cold War, on CBC Radio’s "Sunday Edition" Oct. 21.
  • Women’s studies Prof. Andrea O’Reilly discussed whether it is better to be a stringent alpha mom or a laid back beta mom, in a report broadcast on CHEK6-TV in Victoria Oct. 19 and on Global TV in Winnipeg Oct. 21.
  • Sheela Basrur, Toronto’s former medical officer of health, was honoured by York University, reported Global TV Oct. 20.