Evidence of meeting #37 for Health in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was drug.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Richard Chisholm  President, Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society
  • John Haggie  President, Canadian Medical Association
  • Gail Attara  Chair of Operations Committee, President and Chief Executive Officer, Gastrointestinal Society, Best Medicines Coalition
  • Suzanne Nurse  Representative, Best Medicines Coalition
  • Diane Lamarre  President, Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec
  • Myrella Roy  Executive Director, Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Thank you so much.

Go ahead, Mr. Brown.

March 29th, 2012 / 10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

There have certainly been interesting comments today. Mr. Strahl asked about other countries that may not have had shortages. If I recall, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. were mentioned.

One of the challenges we have in Canada obviously is that we have several levels of government involved in the administration of health care, with the provinces administering health care.

Are there things that have been done in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. that you suggest should be utilized or looked at in Canada? And how would they apply, given the jurisdictions we have in Canada?

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Would you like to take that question, Dr. Chisholm?

10:35 a.m.

President, Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society

Dr. Richard Chisholm

We could rewrite the British North America Act, but that would be historical.

In New Zealand and Australia, they source to other places where we cannot go. For England, again, I'm not sure. We need some dialogue at a level higher than I am to find out exactly how they have managed to avoid these problems. As I said, they did have problems a few years ago, but certainly not to the extent that we and the U.S. have had.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Ms. Lamarre.

10:35 a.m.

President, Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec

Diane Lamarre

Our examination of shortages—which we had already begun a year ago—revealed that more than 43% of shortages had to do with manufacturing quality, so products that did not meet either Health Canada or FDA standards. So there is a significant responsibility at all levels.

The current crisis has prompted us to adopt a different outlook, one where we do not point the finger at those who came before. When we saw shortages in the early 2000s, they did not last long, generally speaking. Now, they are longer. We are being told they will last three or six months. That is a new reality.

Legislation is adapted in response to new needs of patients and the public, and new problems. We are facing a new problem. Thirty years ago, no one would have ever thought there would be a need for legislation on counterfeit drugs or Internet pharmacies. But that is where we are heading, where countries all over the world are heading.

The drug shortage problem falls in that same category. It is a global problem whose repercussions have not necessarily been felt, a problem caused by globalization, the worldwide concentration of the pharmaceutical industry—both ingredient suppliers and drug manufacturers—and distribution methods, among other things. As you can see, all those areas need to be addressed.

Clearly, we have certain needs that have yet to be met. We used to rely solely on the good faith of organizations, which did not necessarily act in bad faith. They were simply caught in a historical context that dictated a certain way of doing things. It is now time to realize that we must do things differently. And to make these organizations do things differently, legislation is needed, because this is an area where people want to protect certain markets, or could eventually do so.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Mr. Brown.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

I know my time is limited. I have another question I want to get on the record before my time evaporates, as it does very quickly here.

The question is for the CMA. When a drug shortage is identified, and we're looking at an alternative drug, some have suggested that it should be a government body that does that. Wouldn't it make sense to have pharmacists and physicians look at what the alternatives should be? What role do you think physicians should have in that process?

10:40 a.m.

President, Canadian Medical Association

Dr. John Haggie

I think you need to involve them, but it's a reactive thing. This is a palliative approach.

The issue of shortages and how you manage them is part of the problem, and part of the solution, as you correctly point out, is to involve pharmacists and physicians. Really, at the moment we don't have a system that allows that to happen in a way that's useful to the person writing the prescription.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joy Smith

Thank you, Dr. Haggie.

Sorry, Ms. Roy. Maybe if someone asks you a question you can...because that was pointed at a pharmacist.

We'll now go to Mr. Hsu. I don't know, Mr. Hsu, if you would like to hear from Ms. Roy on this issue or not. It's your time.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I want to explore this question of international supply that Dr. Roy brought up. You said that something like 70% of drugs are manufactured elsewhere. I want to ask you if there is a body that keeps track of that, perhaps calculated at 70%, or keeps track of which drugs that we use in Canada come from which countries.

10:40 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists

Myrella Roy

I'm not aware of which body would do that. I think the drug manufacturing associations probably have a better sense than we have. Certainly, as a health care professional, I have no idea.

This number that I quoted earlier about the 70% was big news to me when I learned that a couple of months ago. I don't know who has that sense. I think, as I said, it's the drug manufacturing associations, the drug distribution agencies as well.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

There's a World Health Organization meeting in May, I believe. Somebody, and it may even have been your organization, had asked Canada to try to get this issue on the agenda of the World Health Organization meeting in May. I was wondering if you could comment on that.

10:40 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists

Myrella Roy

I think the suggestion probably came from the Canadian Pharmacists Association. It may be that we did write to Minister Aglukkaq about a month ago, jointly with the Canadian Pharmacists Association. In that letter we did raise the issue that drug shortages are a global problem and finding global solutions should be something that should be addressed through the WHO.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

To your knowledge, has that happened?