Friday, September 12, 2014

More On Health Canada's Depraved Indifference

I entitled yesterday's post "All Canadians Should Be Outraged." Now I somehow doubt that all Canadians will get the chance, outside of those who read The Star. To my knowledge, no other news organization nor political party has weighed in on the issue of the secrecy practiced by Health Canada, secrecy that could cost people their lives. Given the potential of the issue to affect all of us, I find that deeply disappointing.

Nonetheless, today's Star editorial continues with the paper's quest for accountability.

Entitled End secrecy around prescription drugs: Health Canada needs to clean up its shameful cult of institutional secrecy and make findings public as the American Food and Drug agency does, the piece sums up the dangers lurking in our midst in just a few short sentences:

It’s a prescription for disaster.

Some Canadian pharmaceutical companies have sold drugs they knew were defective — putting patients at possible risk.

Others have hidden, altered and in some cases destroyed test data that showed their products were tainted or potentially unsafe, or not reported side-effects suffered by consumers taking their drugs.

That’s scary enough.

But more worrisome is this: Star reporters David Bruser and Jesse McLean could not get this information from Health Canada. Instead, they had to rely on detailed notes from the American Food and Drug Administration’s inspections of Canadian companies.

That’s because in addition to conducting inspections of Canadian prescription drug manufacturing facilities around the world, the FDA also makes its findings available on its website for public scrutiny.

And it once more addresses what I found one of the most disturbing aspects uncovered in its investigation:

Health Canada also said it would take months to decide whether it would release information about 30 drug inspections the FDA had conducted on Canadian company manufacturing sites that had resulted in objectionable findings.

In some cases, it said, it would have to consult with the inspected Canadian drug companies before publicly disclosing the information.


Canadian taxpayers, who pay for Health Canada inspections, don’t have the right to know the results — without the approval of the self-interested pharmaceutical companies? Or even be reassured that the drugs they are taking are safely manufactured, as American consumers can easily confirm?

That attitude is shameful and dangerous.

I blame the Harper regime for setting the tone at Health Canada. The culture of secrecy embraced and promoted by this government, having permeated the bureaucracy, coupled with the elevation of business interests over those of citizens, means all Canadians are being needlessly put at risk.

Citizens are only as powerful as the information they have access to. If you didn't read yesterday's Star exposé, I urge you to do so, and send a link to as many people as you know.

None of us can afford to simply dismiss this as just another sad testament to the decline in care and service we have all been witness and victim to under the current regime.

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