House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Drug Shortages
Emergency Debate
Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member is bang on. That is absolutely the case. This is not a new problem. This problem has existed for several years. The government's first step in trying to correct it, under great pressure, was a voluntary monitoring system. How is that working? It is not.

The government has to go back to the drawing board. Tonight, my colleagues laid out a whole host of solutions to solve this problem. We are calling on the government to take action now to get this problem solved once and for all.

Drug Shortages
Emergency Debate
Government Orders

March 12th, 2012 / 7:45 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, as is my custom, I would like to change the subject a little in order to direct the listener toward possible solutions and other paths that have yet to be explored.

This emergency debate is a good opportunity to shed some light on the real impact that pharmaceutical products have on our society. The deprivation resulting in part from this chance occurrence has brought some issues related to addiction and social vulnerability into the open. Such exposure adds to the environment of fear fed by the government's anticipated cuts on the delivery of services to the public.

Now, I would like to say that I hope that the current drug shortage will make Canadians more aware of drug addiction and prescription drug and substance abuse. In fact, this problem is generally condemned, and I think that now is the right time to address this type of problem.

Overmedication is a significant problem in Canada. In addition to having serious consequences for the physical and mental health of patients, it is also very harmful to the health care system. Hospital admissions due to drug reactions or interactions are very expensive, not to mention the cost of the drugs themselves.

One member of Parliament told me that psychiatric care would surely suffer as a result of this drug shortage. In my practice—I am a lawyer, specifically a criminal lawyer—I was responsible for hundreds of cases involving confinement to institutions, and it seems that the drug shortage will affect anxiolytics, antidepressants and anticonvulsants. This is a problem right now, and I wanted to mention it. It is psychiatric patients who will be the most affected by this drug shortage.

On another note, oddly enough, the breakdown in the pharmaceutical supply cycle coincides with recent discoveries about the true impact of narcotics addiction on our country's aboriginal communities. According to the figures released to the Canadian public over the past few weeks, the rate of addiction to OxyContin, a prescription pain killer, was up to almost 70% in remote communities. I am referring to the information in the media about the community of Cat Lake, where the community leaders reported this rate of addiction. Obviously, I hope that it is 70% of adults who are addicted to this drug. I did not look into the subject any further but it has been mentioned in the House before and it came to my attention. I wanted to mention it.

This high proportion should be considered only from the viewpoint of the government’s tendency to blind delegation and its refusal to manage, follow up and administer prescription drugs to certain restricted social units, which are, in addition, very well insured.

I shall return momentarily to these restricted units, and I will also talk about the promiscuous nature of life in the communities, that is, the extreme crowding these people experience. I shall also talk about the coverage enjoyed by the aboriginal citizens of our country.

What is provided to Canada’s first nations under Health Canada’s non-insured health benefits program covers a wide range of prescription drugs, including restricted drugs, the so-called downers and uppers. People in my home community take a lot of these drugs, and do not always respect the recommended dosage or prescriptions.

I want to talk a little about my community. We have a clinic back home called Uauitshitun Santé et Services sociaux. The health services also manage the social services, which include child and family services. And in even more remote areas, these health services are also asked to determine the proper dosages to give patients and to manage prescription drugs.

As I said, aboriginals benefit from very generous coverage for all kinds of drugs.

In many cases, the people receiving these prescriptions are elderly. In many cases, their prescriptions are misused by family members. I will discuss that in more detail shortly.

The overmedication of target groups—aboriginal communities and elderly individuals in those communities—justifies a review of health care priorities as defined by the nation's decision-makers.

There is an institutionalized tendency to direct patients with a variety of symptoms toward treatments that rely heavily on the use of modern pharmaceuticals. Far be it from me to suggest that the pharmaceutical industry promotes the use of prescriptions for aboriginal patients. However, that argument has been brought to my attention. It is a valid hypothesis. There is a lot of suffering in my home community and in other Innu communities. Doctors are often powerless to alleviate human suffering. Some might be tempted to overmedicate an individual with problems that resemble depression. More thorough testing might reveal that the problems can be treated with holistic measures and without the thoughtless administration of pharmaceutical products.

I want to come back to the crowding in communities. I said that seniors are most often users of opiates, including OxyContin. I would not say that this is a widespread phenomenon, but seniors' drugs will sometimes be stolen. Some people are well aware of the effect of downers and will arrange to steal drugs meant for seniors. Social services could confirm this problem, which is condemned. Ultimately, the senior is missing several tablets at the end of the week. Young people or the people who steal a drug grind it into a powder to snort it. The drug can also be injected, but most of the time it is snorted. People will steal drugs, regardless of the dosage. All they want is to get high or come down.

The current shortage associated with Sandoz and its impact on addicts clearly illustrate the problems that can result from a sudden disruption in the supply of targeted drugs in the country. An expert from Simon Fraser University recently talked about the impact such a shortage can have on Canada's social fabric and the certain involvement of organized crime cells. The increase in the black market price of targeted drugs such as uppers and downers—including opiates—will lead to a marked increase in criminal activity connected with trafficking.

Finally, let us hope that this crisis situation will prompt Canadians to re-evaluate their relationships with pharmaceutical products, because sometimes abundance can lead to abuse.

Drug Shortages
Emergency Debate
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for bringing up the issue of overmedication, which is a complex issue that would be a good idea for debate in the House one day.

As we have seen in the House time and time again, the government tends to spin things and create misinformation wherever it can. One of our hon. colleagues said that I was confused. I suppose the hon. colleague should be able to understand the difference between sarcasm. I was sarcastic because I heard conflicting statements in the House from the minister about what she saw as her responsibility and later when she said that it was not her responsibility. I know the responsibility between federal and provincial jurisdictions extremely well.

The member is from the Inuit community. Does he believe the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility, a right, to look at the health of Inuit communities? As a result, should the federal government not come up with a mandatory reporting system, an ability to anticipate drug shortages? The government should remember that if this is a global issue, there will be a time when we will be unable to get the substitutions we need to help Canadians.

Drug Shortages
Emergency Debate
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her question.

I just want to specify that I do not come from an Inuit community. I come from an Innu community. It is close, but roughly 10 degrees lower in latitude. Now, the reason I delved into Indian issues is because everything to do with Innu and Inuit communities falls under federal jurisdiction. Thus, I took the liberty of elaborating on this subject.

Now I am going to talk about the fiduciary relationship with regard to the administration of pharmaceutical products in the communities. This fiduciary responsibility must not be expanded to cover every stages of an individual's life. Free will applies to all human beings and the communities are going to have to take a position. They are going to have to do some soul searching. That type of thinking should open one's eyes to the substance of the issues and encourage mobilization at the local level.

Drug Shortages
Emergency Debate
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Questions and comments.

My apologies to the hon. parliamentary secretary. Indeed, members are able to put questions from anywhere in the chamber they wish according to the rules of this emergency debate.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Drug Shortages
Emergency Debate
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am glad I got a bit of exercise this evening since there is a lot of room within the House for me to move and choose a desk to ask my question from.

I guess I would like to ask the member opposite what exactly he believes we are focused on in debating tonight.

The government takes very seriously our responsibility with respect to jurisdiction. We take very seriously the position of whether or not the provinces or territories have a responsibility with regard to health care services. The government, federally, has the responsibility for expediting drugs with regard to shortages and other things.

I guess I would just like to ask him what his focus was this evening. I was having a challenge following his direction in the debate and whether or not he agrees with respect to the jurisdictional responsibilities that we each have.

Drug Shortages
Emergency Debate
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

You were having a challenge because it is the aboriginal way of dealing with issues; it is a roundabout way. It is a new way in this Parliament. You will have to live with it. I am truly sorry, but that is the way it is. Sometimes, issues are raised that have not been brought to the public's attention for 500 years. Things start piling up. You will have to learn to live with it.

I will talk about federal administrative methods, and also, ultimately, about transporting drugs to remote areas. I will speak entirely to the aboriginal experience as it is the only area in which I am on solid ground. Getting back to the fiduciary relationship, the federal government has a definite responsibility in that regard. It means something to the rest of Canada, and the government has a crisis on its hands. The Conservatives are currently in a position to take action and do what is necessary to remedy this very problematic situation. I submit this respectfully.

Drug Shortages
Emergency Debate
Government Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I would remind all hon. members to address their questions and comments to the Chair, not directly to other hon. members.

It being midnight, I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until later this day at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 12 a.m.)