News / Vancouver

Big Pharma's donations to B.C. Liberals outstrip those to NDP 11-to-one

Anyone wondering why the Liberal government would axe funding for B.C.'s only independent drug watchdog need only follow the money, according to a UVic pharmaceutical policy analyst.

Researcher Alan Cassels ran the names of more than a dozen major drug companies, lobby groups and pharmacies through the province's online Financial Reports and Political Contributions System this week, after NDP Leader Adrian Dix attacked the Liberals on Monday for killing the Therapeutics Initiative at UBC.

He found that altogether, since 2005 the industry's donations to the Liberals have totalled $546,772 — outstripping the NDP's total of $49,500 11-to-one.

"Clearly [pharmaceutical companies] want influence, and money buys influence," Cassels said after sharing his findings with Metro on Wednesday.

"You get what you pay for and if a $500,000 investment over eight years resulted in killing the Therapeutics Initiative, that might have been a useful expenditure of funds."

Premier Christy Clark defended her decision in a radio debate on Friday, saying that the decision was made out of respect for the private sector.

But Dix has promised if elected to immediately reinstate the initiative's annual funding to its previous level of $1 million, and double that budget next year.

Dr. James Wright, Chair of the Therapeutics Initiative (TI), said Wednesday the Liberals' decision has caused great distress to his staff of independent researchers, who have managed to keep a number of dangerous and pricey new drugs off the mass market in B.C.

He said unless the centre's funding is restored he will have to lay off his 30 part-time staff in June.

"The TI would basically be gone, and it's taken us 19 years to get this team together, so it would be a big debacle."

Dr. Wright said he has requested meetings with B.C. Health Minister and former family doctor Margaret MacDiarmid, but was denied.

Without funding, he said the program's current research into the dangers of new medications, such as statins — a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs that have been linked to kidney damage and diabetes — will go uncompleted.

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