The Smith government may have had good intentions when purchasing the medication. But …
Last fall, in response to a diminished supply of children’s Tylenol, the United Conservative Party (UCP) government announced it would purchase acetaminophen from a manufacturer in Turkey. The plan was to get the much-needed medication to pharmacies by Christmas. Although Alberta parents welcomed this announcement with open arms, Christmas came and went, and no medication landed on pharmacy shelves.
The government told Albertans the medication was being held up awaiting Health Canada’s approval. Of course! The federal agency needed to test the product to ensure it met Canadian standards and was safe.
Albertans then learned the product needed child-proof caps. Apparently, this basic safety measure was overlooked when the medication was ordered, even though it is a requirement in Canada. So the first shipment earmarked for community pharmacies ended up going to pharmacies in Alberta Health Services facilities. After child-proof caps were added, regulators found another missing element – bilingual labels, again something that has been the standard for decades in Canada.
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Finally, the Turkish Tylenol equivalent – Parol – started to arrive on pharmacy shelves. But, with all the delays, there was no longer a need for the extra children’s medication.
How much did all this fumbling cost taxpayers? The government admitted the total cost to buy and ship the Turkish medicine was $80 million, of which $10 million was for shipping, waste disposal and administration. This worked out to about $17 per bottle. With 770,000 children under the age of 14 in Alberta, that’s six bottles per child. How many people keep a stock of six bottles of children’s Tylenol at home? How much of this Turkish Tylenol will be used before it expires and has to be disposed of?
Even with a promised $7 per bottle subsidy, the cost to consumers is still $10 per bottle. As a parent who has had sick children, I know I and other Albertan parents think the money could be used to provide greater actual benefits for Albertans.
Alberta Blue Cross says that Parol comes with a different dose and dosing device than domestic products. Parents will have to administer more Parol than Tylenol to get similar results. To reduce the risk of a dosage error, Parol must be kept behind the pharmacy counter and pharmacists “are expected to provide counselling and education to parents/caregivers on the safe and correct usage.”
In an effort to look like they are actually doing something good for Albertans, Danielle Smith’s government has clearly demonstrated poor judgment. Millions of Alberta taxpayer dollars were squandered with this fiscally irresponsible, non-evidence-based experiment.
If a proper analysis had been undertaken before making such a knee-jerk announcement, we could have saved Albertans millions of dollars and achieved a better outcome.
The Smith government may have had good intentions when purchasing the medication. But, as management consultant Jim Collins famously said, bad decisions made with good intentions are still bad decisions.
The provincial election at the end of May cannot come soon enough.
Stephanie Shostak is Shadow Minister, Health for the Alberta Party.
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