Award winning writers address the frontiers of immunology and drug policy
Montreal August 15, 2017 — As the only OECD country with universal health care but not a parallel pharmacare program, Canada regularly faces the challenges of dealing with life-saving medicines that come with sky-high price tags. Firms that want to offer drug benefits to their employees frequently run into this challenge, which fosters the call for a national strategy that would address this problem once and for all.
In a sweeping narrative that appeared in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine in November 2016, Paul Christopher Webster put names and faces to this complex story. He spoke with the people who run corporate health plans, as well as academics who analyse government drug policies and the pharmaceutical firms that defend their practices, to offer a multi-faceted perspective on an issue that affects all Canadians.
His article, “Big Pharma vs Everyone”, is one of two articles being honoured with this year’s Sanofi Pasteur Medal of Excellence in Health Research Journalism. The other medal-winner is Steve Buist, whose story “Researchers look to the immune system to battle cancer” appeared in the Hamilton Spectator in February 2016.
Buist outlines an emerging frontier of cancer treatment that is based on helping the body’s own defences carry out the task, an approach that could overcome the limitations and side effects of existing therapies.
“We’re so used to thinking of this three-legged stool — surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy — that is comes almost as a surprise to find this fourth leg of immunotherapy,” says CHR President Patricia Guyda. “And Buist does a masterful job of explaining just how much potential this approach could have.”
She also praises the extensive research that went into Webster’s account of drug policy, which features personalities and colourful history that complement the hard data about the pharmaceutical industry.
“Drugs are an essential aspect of modern health care that can transform an individual’s life,” says Guyda. “Nevertheless, they can be extraordinarily expensive to develop that poses the difficulty of making them accessible to everyone.”
CHR launched the Sanofi Pasteur Medal of Excellence in Health Research Journalism in 1995, and administers the selection process. Sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur Limited, Canada's premier vaccine company, the inaugural medal recipient was Globe & Mail science reporter Stephen Strauss for his longstanding contribution to promoting public awareness of science. Other recent awardees include Ivan Semeniuk of the Globe & Mail, Mark Witten for his work in Homemakers magazine and Hannah Hoag for an article in the Montreal Gazette.
Both winners will receive a plaque and a $2,500 bursary from Canadians for Health Research, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting the stability and quality of Canadian health research. It fosters communication between health researchers, the government and the Canadian public, and publishes a quarterly magazine entitled Future Health. For more information, please visit the CHR website at .
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