Improving Patient Care by Removing Barriers to Drug Accessibility

Podcast, Videos


In the latest episode of Impetus Digital‘s Fireside Chat, I sat down with Alan Birch, Founder & President of Drug Access Canada. We discussed all things drug access and reimbursement, including the hurdles faced by patients and drug access navigators and whether digital technologies can be used to overcome these challenges.

Below is a preview of our conversation:

Q: Tell us about what Drug Access Canada is, the focus of your company, and why you decided to move this Canada-wide?

A: We are about a year old. It’s quite new. It’s been in the works for several years, though. So, when I was part of ODANO, as president for about five years, one of the things that I helped create was the ODANO website. It’s and it has a lot of information on reimbursement in oncology for Ontario. It’s patient-focused information because we got a lot of questions from patients like “How do I get this covered?”, “I bought this for my parent, can I get my money back?”. Not even in oncology, we got a lot of questions from the public for people who had diabetes and all sorts of different disorders, and there was just no one out there really to help them. The focus sort of just sprang from that.

There was this need beyond oncology and there was a need beyond Ontario, so I started meeting with drug access navigators in the other provinces. When I went to the Atlantic provinces and BC, meeting with the navigators there, who had been in their role for maybe 3, 4, or 5 years at most, their struggles were a lot like what we had dealt with in Ontario 10 years ago. They were kind of starting from scratch and there’s a lot less of them.

I knew that they were struggling in a way that, at least in Ontario, with nearly 100 members, we could reach out to other centers and ask for support. If you’re in a province with only four navigators, your pool is a lot smaller to find help. It really came from trying to make sure that, if we’re so well-connected in Ontario with drug access in oncology, there are all these other spaces where people are not as connected and don’t really know what to do. They are kind of siloed. A lot of the hospitals have just one navigator, so they don’t really have anyone to turn to for help. How can we make sure that they are connected, that they do have resources, and they are brought to the forefront?

It’s all these challenges that we’ve dealt with in Ontario over the last 10 years. But how can we just use the skill sets that we’ve gained here and all of the knowledge from all of the dozens of members in Ontario to help the navigators in Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, so that they can all be brought up to the same level and be as well-resourced as we are in Ontario? That’s why we created Drug Access Canada. We want to bring everyone up to a good level where everyone is as aware of all the different programs that are out there.

I think one of the worst fears of mine would be if there was a patient who needed a particular medication in oncology and the physician maybe didn’t know that there was a program for a new therapy that’s being provided compassionately from a drug manufacturer and says “You can’t get that. We’re going to put you on to the standard of care treatment and because we know that that one’s funded and that’s what you’re going to get.” But there actually was something else and just no one told them. Maybe the center doesn’t have a navigator, something like that. That is what we really want to avoid. If there is a new therapy out there that’s superior to the standard treatment. We want to make sure that you’re able to get that, especially if it’s being provided for free from the manufacturer.

How can we make sure that the hundreds of hospitals across this country are all brought up to the same level as downtown Toronto? We just want to make sure that if you’re a rural part of northern Quebec, you’re just as aware of the newest treatment options as someone in downtown Toronto…

For more of our discussion, you can watch the whole Fireside Chat with Alan Brich, or listen to the podcast version, below.

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