Ralph Semple challenges the BC Liberals' quit-smoking plan.

Ralph Semple challenges the BC Liberals' quit-smoking plan.

Province roasted on quit-smoking plan

Pharmaceutical focus ineffective, says laser-treatment provider

Add Ralph Semple to the list of critics of B.C.’s plan to fund therapy for smokers.

The president of South Surrey-based Imagine Laserworks said the government will spend $15-$25 million per year – based on its own estimates – on drugs he claims are not only ineffective, but also pose documented health risks to the public.

And he says he is taking his concerns to NDP health critic Mike Farnworth.

“His office is very keen to talk to us,” Semple said.

Imagine, which has operated locally for the last decade, offers laser acupuncture treatments to help clients stop smoking. But Semple said the B.C. smoking cessation program, set to start Sept. 30, ignores alternative therapies to focus exclusively on pharmaceuticals such as nicotine gum and patches, or prescription pills.

“It’s not just about us,” he said. “What about acupuncture, or all the hypnotherapists’ offices or counselling? Why is this focused on supporting one industry? The BC Liberal website says they support small business, but in reality they’re supporting the pharmaceutical industry.”

The Ministry of Health, however, maintains that its drug coverage decisions are the result of a “rigorous” review process.

In a statement, ministry spokesperson Brian Cotton said the process “considers clinical evidence, cost effectiveness, input from clinical experts, information from other jurisdictions, available resources and existing programs and policies.”

Semple said he tried to have Imagine’s services included among government-covered therapies after the program was announced in May.

“I got the basic runaround,” he said. “They reported back to me that Health Canada doesn’t recognize laser acupuncture as a therapy.”

But Cotton said additional evidence is required on the “efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness” of laser acupuncture before it could be considered under the program. He noted that PharmaCare would not cover it in any case, as it’s not classed as a prescription drug or a medical supply.

“The  ministry is pleased to continue discussions with the laser therapists, should additional evidence… become available,” he said.

Semple’s attack on the smoking-cessation program also extends to specific prescription drugs that will be covered under B.C.’s plan, including one that has been the subject of Health Canada warnings and another that is the subject of numerous class-action suits in Canada and the U.S.

“People will assume if the government is paying for it, the government is endorsing it – that it’s good for them,” he said, adding that physicians have been slow to warn patients of potentially fatal side effects of such drugs.

“Is (Premier) Christy Clark’s government going to assume responsibility for class-action lawsuits?”

Cotton said the health ministry is completing a review of drugs that will be covered.

“The final decision will need to measure safety concerns against clinical evidence that shows the benefit of the drug in patients trying to quit smoking,” he said.

In addition to safety issues, Semple said the government’s decision to fund over-the-counter nicotine- replacement therapies ignores studies that show they have a success rate of less than eight per cent.

“It’s like telling an alcoholic, ‘if you want to quit drinking, switch from Scotch to Vodka’,” said Semple, who claims Imagine’s success rate is between 85 and 94 per cent.

In business for 13 years, Semple says his criticism is not simply sour grapes for having his therapy passed over for government support.

“People come to us as a last resort anyway… because the other things don’t work,” he said.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s first case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Laura Barnes is to feature some of her artwork at Gallery at Central Plaza next month. (Contributed photo)
New artist showcase coming to White Rock gallery

Laura Barnes work, mixing brights and darks, to be displayed in February

White Rock Public Library (File photo)
Surrey, White Rock literacy leaders kick off Family Literacy Week

Literacy events to take place Jan. 24 to 31

Surrey Community Cat Foundation received funding to assist with medical procedures. (File photo)
SurreyCats receives grant to assist with spay/neuter costs

PetSmart Charities of Canada donates $5,000

Beds are set up at the emergency response centre at the North Surrey Recreation Centre. (Contributed file photo)
26 people test positive for COVID-19 at Surrey emergency shelter

Centre located at North Surrey Recreation Centre

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment Mission, has break-out year

Most Read