Seniors are the heaviest users of prescriptions medicines in Canada. Yet it is estimated that as much as half of the medications given to seniors are taken incorrectly or overprescribed, increasing the likelihood of adverse drug reactions and interactions. Moreover, many drugs prescribed to seniors either have not been adequately studied for this age group or have not been formally approved for the conditions they are being prescribed to treat. What are the principal causes and what is the extent of the problem? What more can be done to address this serious health issue for our aging population? Panelists Nicole F. Bernier, former director of the IRPP’s Faces of Aging program, Isobel Mackenzie, BC Seniors Advocate, and Dr. Joel Lexchin, Professor Emeritus at York University discussed these questions and more. The moderator was France St-Hilaire (IRPP).
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Nicole F. Bernier is the former research director for the IRPP’s Faces of Aging program. Studies and events under her direction have advanced ideas nationally on critical issues including home care, long-term care, pharmacare, caregiving, age-friendly communities and financing strategies for eldercare. Before joining the IRPP in 2011, Nicole worked as a research professor of Canadian public health policy at the University of Montreal. Nicole is the author of peer-reviewed articles and two monographs, Le désengagement de l’État providence and L’environnement politique de la santé.
Isobel Mackenzie is the Seniors Advocate for British Columbia. She led British Columbia’s largest not-for-profit agency, serving over 6,000 seniors. In this work, she led the implementation of a new model of dementia care that has become a national best practice, and led the first safety accreditation for homecare workers. She was named BC CEO of the year for the not-for-profit sector. She served on a number of national and provincial boards and commissions, including the BC Medical Services Commission, the Canadian Homecare Association, BC Care Providers, BC Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry, and the Capital Region Housing Corporation. Currently she serves on the University of Victoria’s board of governors.
Joël Lexchin has been an emergency physician at the University Health Network in Toronto for 28 years. He taught health policy in the School of Health Policy and Management at York University from 2001 to 2016 and is now a professor emeritus at York. He has consulted on pharmaceutical issues for the province of Ontario, the federal government, the World Health Organization, the government of New Zealand and the Australian National Prescribing Service. He is a frequent critic of the pharmaceutical industry and how Health Canada regulates drugs. He is the author of Doctors in Denial: Why Big Pharma and the Canadian Medical Profession are Too Close for Comfort (forthcoming, May 2017). He received his MD from the University of Toronto in 1977.
France St-Hilaire is vice-president of research at the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP). She oversees the Institute’s research agenda and coordinates projects on economic and social policy. She has written extensively on public finance, social policy and fiscal federalism. She co-edited several IRPP volumes, including Income Inequality: The Canadian Story (2016), Northern Exposure: Peoples, Powers and Prospects in Canada’s North (2009), and A Canadian Priorities Agenda: Policy Choices to Improve Economic and Social Well-Being (2007). Before joining the IRPP as a research director in 1992, she worked as a researcher at the Institute for Policy Analysis at the University of Toronto and in the Department of Economics at the University of Western Ontario.
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