Monday, September 29, 2014

A Possible Soution To Health Canada's Willful Impotence

Yesterday I wrote about the fact that Health Canada has 'convinced' (not ordered) Apotex to stop importing drugs from one of its suspect plants in Bangalore, India. The agency's (and Health Minister Rona Ambrose's) ongoing timid relationship with pharmaceuticals at the expense of our health and safety suggests stronger measures are needed

Writing in The Star, Amir Attaran thinks he might have a solution to this sorry state of affairs. The professor in the Faculty of Law and faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa asks,
should we reduce, or nearly abolish, Health Canada’s drug regulatory functions? Could we be safer by trusting in the decisions of larger, better-funded, foreign drug regulators instead of little lame Health Canada?
He looks to Europe for a model:
The 28 countries of the European Union, many of them quite small, long ago decided that it is expensive, inefficient and sometimes dangerously ineffective for each country to have its own drug regulator. Nowadays, most of them have delegated large parts of their drug regulatory functions to an EU-wide organization, the European Medicines Agency.
Attaran is not optimistic that Canada will likely follow suit with a similar co-operative venture:
Here, the Harper government’s asphyxiating control of government scientists and almost childish pride in Canadian sovereignty mean that Health Canada minimally co-operates with America’s FDA just next door. This is dumb: the FDA is more transparent, better resourced and scientifically better equipped than Health Canada will ever be.
He goes on to offer a picture of the FDA's ruthless effectiveness in interdicting suspect drugs:
Consider the case of Ranbaxy, a pharmaceutical company from India. Last year, the FDA successfully prosecuted Ranbaxy for manufacturing adulterated drugs and misleading it with false, fictitious and fraudulent drug testing data — crimes for which Ranbaxy paid $500 million (U.S.) in criminal and civil penalties.

Contrast that decisiveness with Health Canada's feckless dealings with the same company:
Even though former Ranbaxy executives say they are “confident there were problems” with drugs sold here, after the criminal conviction Health Canada refused to ban Ranbaxy’s factories, and instead negotiated with the company to voluntarily pull a few of its medicines off the market for testing; Health Canada won’t say which ones.
According to Attaran, the main reason for this gross disparity of response is not legal, but cultural,
namely the indolent, lapdog attitude of ministers like Ambrose and the public servants at Health Canada, who seem to lack any understanding of how governments should regulate.
Because they refuse to learn from the best practices of bodies like the FDA and the European Medicines Agency, he concludes that
we should in part abolish Health Canada and harmonize our drug regulation with those foreign agencies that are more competent than our own government.
While that might strike many as too drastic a solution, it is clear that major changes are needed if we are to be protected from corrupt and venal pharmaceutical companies that place their profits and their shareholders above the health and safety of Canadians.


  1. Rona Ambrose is little more than an aging, overweight Barbie™ doll. The sooner we can get of her and the other Harperites, the sooner we can seriously address the health issues of Canadians.

    1. We can only hope that sufficient numbers of Canadians recognize the many deficiencies of the current government and vote accordingly in 2015, Anon.