Friday, December 28, 2012

Industry 'Self-Regulation'

In a world rife with the environmental, economic and social consequences of unfettered capitalism, the term 'industry self-regulation' has always struck me as little more than a oxymoron. Examples abound of what happens when government regulatory agencies enter into what turn out to be Faustian bargains with the corporate sector, the sad case of XL Foods perhaps the one most prominent in recent memory.

Today's Star exposes yet another failure of corporate oversight as it reports on the plight of Ryan Harrington, a young man afflicted with a severe form of epilepsy that, without the proper medication, leads to upwards of 200 seizures a day. Unfortunately, he has just a seven-day supply left of the only drug that limits his episodes to three per day, Celontin. The blame for his plight must rest solely on the shoulders of Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and the ethos that her government embraces

Because she opted for voluntary instead of mandatory reporting of drug shortages by the pharmaceutical industry, Harrington faces his dire situation. This, despite the fact that Health Canada staff warned that a voluntary system would be “susceptible to bad company behaviour.”

Why is this failure to report the drug shortage so crucial in Harrington's situation? Had his family known, they could have applied for special access to the drug, which is still produced in the U.S.

As is so often the case today, it is the journalistic integrity of The Toronto Star that has brought this issue to the public's attention. A followup editorial, which I hope you will take time to read, makes a compelling case for mandatory reporting:

A comprehensive, up-to-date system providing early warning of drug shortages would give hospitals, doctors and provincial health ministries a head start on finding alternatives and developing strategies for coping with what's to come. Forewarned is forearmed. So it doesn't make sense from a public health perspective to give manufacturers a penalty-free choice on whether or not to comply.

Not something those ideologues possessed of 'terminal certitude', to borrow a phrase used by Owen over at Northern Reflections, may want to hear, but nonetheless a necessary measure for the rest of us.


  1. Dear God. And that is just one reported case. How many people might be out there who don't have access to a reporter, or who just accept this bullshit as the way things are? This is really heartbreaking. I have had occasion to wonder if they are trying to kill us off before, and here I am wondering again.

  2. I suspect the Harper regime counts on the legendary passivity of Canadians in situations like this, Karen. One way to fight that passivity is to disseminate as widely as possible stories like this, which is why I am so thankful for The Star's progressive principles.