Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages Act

An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (disclosure of drug shortages)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Djaouida Sellah  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Feb. 12, 2014
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Department of Health Act to oblige drug suppliers to advise the Minister of any interruption or cessation of the production, distribution or importation of drugs and to oblige the Minister to prepare and implement an emergency response plan to address shortages of drugs.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 12, 2014 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2014 / 6 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, indeed, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-523, presented as a private member's bill from the NDP. The Liberals have actually been calling for the Conservative government to implement mandatory reporting of drug shortages since 2011, and with luck, we will finally see this move forward.

This legislation is quite simple in that it mandates that a supplier, be it a manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, or importer of drugs, notify the Minister of Health of any planned interruption of the production, distribution, or importation of a drug at least six months in advance. Failure to do this would be punishable via summary conviction and a fine of not more than $1.8 million. Any unexpected interruption would have to be reported to the minister as soon as possible or the supplier would face a summary conviction and fine of not more than $10,000 per day from the day the offence is committed, up to a maximum of $1.8 million.

Moreover, under the terms of this legislation, if a supplier is planning to cease production, distribution, or importation, the minister must be informed at least 12 months in advance or face a summary conviction and fine of not more than $1.8 million.

The minister must develop a plan—and this is important—in conjunction with the provinces and territories to prevent and address drug shortages, inform patients and health care providers, and prepare and implement any emergency response plan to address any shortage of a drug. I said that is important because the record of the government, in terms of doing anything in a co-operative way with the provinces, is that this seems almost foreign to it. This might all sound complicated, but in reality, the bill is simply calling on industry to keep government informed when a specific drug might become scarce, so appropriate planning can be undertaken.

Why was the bill proposed in the first place? Simply put, it was proposed in response to the ongoing shortage of medically necessary drugs across Canada. In the past, the Conservatives have asked drug companies to collect and post information regarding pending shortages on public websites to help health care professionals adjust treatment plans in a timely fashion. However, this is a voluntary reporting system and does not compel drug companies to disclose any information. As the case last year with Sandoz Canada has shown us, this can lead to significant harm to the health of Canadians who depend on necessary medication. We need to address this to prevent problems in the future. Many MPs in their own constituencies have had constituents come in to talk about shortages of drugs, which may have affected their health.

In the fall of 2011, following the Liberal round table on drug shortages, we recommended that Health Canada should establish a team within Health Canada to anticipate, identify, and manage drug shortages, similar to the 11-person team established by U.S. President Obama at the U.S. FDA. The government has not shown any such leadership, however.

Canada's government must institute a mandatory drug shortage reporting system, which would require manufacturers to list unavailable medications and to develop early warning systems that could highlight potential drug shortages, so health ministers, medical professionals, and patients would be notified as soon as possible. It is the responsible and prudent thing to do. Ensuring a safe supply of essential drugs is a key responsibility of the federal government, but it is a responsibility that the Conservative government has not taken seriously.

Shortages of essential drugs needed for common health issues and procedures are not a new problem, nor is the problem limited to Canada. It is a global problem that demands real action. For nearly three years, community hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies across Canada have been experiencing serious shortages in common medications, including those used for cancer care, heart problems, epilepsy, pain control, and surgical procedures. The federal government has had plenty of warning about the situation but has consistently failed to take action.

Members do not have to take my word for it. The Canadian Pharmacists Association sounded the alarm on shortages three years ago. It noted that 90% of pharmacists face drug shortages each week when filling prescriptions and that these shortages have become worse over time. The Canadian Pharmacists Association asked for the health committee to study the issue urgently and to ensure that this issue is on the agenda of the World Health Assembly meeting in May.

For our part, on two separate occasions at the health committee, August 2011 and again in November, the Liberals demanded that an investigation be launched into the shortages. However, all of these warnings yielded nothing but silence from the government. Members know how these committees work. They go in camera, they are basically shut down, government members vote against the motion, and the public does not know what happened.

As I have already mentioned, in the fall of 2011, the Liberals held a round table on drug shortages with drug experts from across the country. The recommendations that emerged from this were clear. Strong federal action was required to address current and future drug shortages.

In the face of these concerns, the Conservatives have done next to nothing. Their wilful disengagement and abandonment of meaningful responsibility for the shortages has worsened the problem. Rather than real action, the Conservatives brought in a toothless, voluntary drug shortage reporting system, which does not force pharmaceutical companies to report drug shortages, as is required in countries like France and the United States. In its first test case with Sandoz Canada, the voluntary system utterly failed to provide provincial health authorities with advanced warning of a shortage. The company's drug production problems were known months before, but provinces were only notified in late February, leaving the provinces no time to create contingency plans. The previous minister of health herself admitted that the voluntary reporting system was a flop.

The Liberals believe that a mandatory national drug shortage reporting system is required, and today we are backing up that belief with our votes. This reporting system should require drug manufacturers to list unavailable medications and to develop early warning systems that could highlight potential drug shortages, so that health ministers, medical professionals, and patients are notified as soon as possible. The provinces are asking for this and health stakeholders are asking for this, yet the Conservatives ignore their calls and continue to support a failed system that is putting Canadian lives at risk.

I call on members opposite. The backbench members opposite are not members of the executive council. They can act independently, on their own. They do not need to take direction from the departments and from cabinet. They can stand up for citizens on their own. I hold those backbench members responsible for the fact that some of my constituents are seeing drug shortages. It is because the government failed to act and the backbenchers failed to stand up in their own right for their constituents.

In conclusion, the government's approach has clearly been reckless and shortsighted. However, hope is not lost. If members would stand up and do the right thing and support Bill C-523, we would at least have somewhat of a start in dealing with this problem.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2014 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-523, which was moved by my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. This bill would reform the Department of Health Act to deal more effectively with drug shortages.

I would like to mention that I am a nurse by training and that in order to maintain my credentials, I work approximately twice a month in an emergency room and intensive care ward. Critical specialized drugs are used in those places to keep people alive, and that is why I feel it is crucial that we deal more effectively with the issue of drug shortages. Shortages do a lot to complicate matters in a hospital.

Hospitals are already grappling with many issues, such as the fact that there are not enough beds or staff. They are dealing with many problems. Combine those problems with drug shortages and it becomes much more complicated to administer care. This can even lead to operations being cancelled.

Recently, there was a shortage of injection drugs. As a result, non-urgent surgeries were cancelled so as not to deplete supplies of drugs used for those operations in case there were truly urgent cases in which lives depended on those drugs.

The federal government's failure to take action on this issue is having a direct impact on people. People are not getting their surgeries, they are having problems, and their treatment can be out of whack if they change drugs while waiting for a shortage to end.

For example, treating people with psychiatric and mental health conditions is a delicate balancing act, and there is an art to finding the right combination of different classes of drugs to help them and prevent their psychiatric symptoms from recurring. If one of those drugs is taken out of the equation or a substitute is introduced, that can throw off the balance. It can even trigger a psychotic episode. The government needs to understand the critical impact that drug shortages can have on the overall health of patients.

The federal government's failure to act on this matter has forced the provinces to manage it in the end. It becomes very complicated.

This reform is based on two main features: the mandatory disclosure by suppliers of a planned or foreseeable drug shortage and the implementation of an emergency response plan to address shortages.

Drug shortages are a public health issue. Furthermore, this problem is not limited to Canada. It is a global problem. When a company experiences a shortage, its impact will be felt around the world.

In practical terms, the United States has adopted mandatory reporting of drug shortages. That is what this bill calls for. This legislative framework has produced clear results: 195 shortages were avoided in 2011 and 2012 alone. The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, centralizes the information going around about drug shortages and develops an action plan accordingly. It is ready to take action. Ever since the FDA imposed that requirement, the number of shortages that have been avoided rose constantly between 2005 and 2010. Every year, the number of shortages that have been avoided has gone up. Over those five years, approximately 100 drug shortages were avoided. As I just said, in 2011-12, 195 were avoided.

It is incredible how what is basically simple legislation can actually solve or avoid problems that could be critical for people's health.

Many countries have plans and have tackled the problem of dealing with drug shortages. Health Canada should make changes to its regulations based on U.S. and European practices in order to take effective action to deal with the causes and consequences of drug shortages.

By examining the current Department of Health Act, we see that it is the cause of two failures. First of all, it is a public health problem in that patients do not have access to the drugs they need for their treatment. That manifests itself in different ways, as I noted earlier with the psychiatry example.

A more expensive alternative drug can be purchased. It may have a financial impact on patients. It can worsen their health if their symptoms can no longer be managed. In some cases and with certain drugs, it can unfortunately result in the patient's death.

Accordingly, the minister's inaction on preventing drug shortages and the consequences that entails, can cause death. That is something quite tangible and we cannot stand idly by. We cannot ignore this problem.

What is more, this creates budgetary problems. A drug shortage creates extra costs for our health care system. The supplier network has to be changed and the patients have to be contacted again to be given new treatments, for instance. Switching a person to a new drug sometimes requires extra monitoring or blood samples to be taken in order to adjust the treatment. If a patient is denied an antihypertensive and a substitute has to be found because of the shortage, then his blood pressure needs to be taken. He will need to be monitored by a nurse for a certain period of time to ensure that the substitute drugs truly suit him and are treating the symptoms.

We go from having a patient whose condition was under control because he was taking drugs, to having patients who need to be monitored to ensure that their conditions are still under control. This creates rather significant extra costs to the health care system. Most of the cost created by the shortage is borne by the provinces.

Bill C-523 recognizes this doubly dysfunctional system and aims to provide a solution to the problem of drug shortages. It would legally require suppliers to disclose any planned or foreseeable drug shortages, as I mentioned earlier. That is not too complicated for a company to do. It knows when it could end up with a drug shortage because demand has increased or because there are problems with its production line. Therefore, it is not too complicated for companies to inform the government. It would not be a heavy administrative burden. It is rather simple. Health Canada would then quickly pass along the information to hospitals and the provinces, so that they can take appropriate action.

The bill also calls for an action plan. We know how serious the consequences can be for patients. Having an action plan is a priority. We cannot remain silent.

Lastly, we had an emergency debate about the last drug shortage because the government did not have an action plan. It is not prepared for these situations. It is unacceptable that it is not prepared to take action for our health care system or to combat drug shortages. It shows a lack of concern for the health of all Canadians.

That is why it is very important for us to address this issue and pass this bill, so that we can take action for the sake of patients and Canadians.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2014 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for allowing me to speak to Bill C-523, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (disclosure of drug shortages). Before I begin, I want to thank and congratulate my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for her hard work and her excellent bill.

This bill amends the Department of Health Act to oblige drug suppliers to advise the minister of any interruption or cessation of the production, distribution or importation of drugs. It also obliges the minister to prepare and implement an emergency response plan to address shortages of drugs.

Drug shortages in Canada are a major public health problem and the federal government has a role to play in this. The drug shortage phenomenon is nothing new. This has been a recurring problem since the 1970s and there have been successive shortages under Liberal and Conservative governments without either taking action to solve this problem. Nonetheless, it is important to note that these shortages have increased in number and duration over the past few years.

The crisis in 2012, caused by the temporary shutdown of the Sandoz plant, one of the largest manufacturers of injectable drugs for hospitals, clearly showed the scale of this issue. The NDP actually used an opposition day at the time, March 14, 2012, and secured unanimous passage of a motion to resolve the issue. However, as on so many occasions before and since with this government, we have seen a lack of leadership and of will.

Just as with rail safety, air safety, the oil industry and the environment, this government has once again asked industry to regulate itself. We need only mention the many oil pipeline spills, the many railway accidents and the tainted meat scandal to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of industry self-regulation.

In fact, the only effective aspect of industry self-regulation is the effectiveness with which former Conservative members of Parliament have obtained jobs in sectors for which the Conservative government is promoting self-regulation. That could be the topic of another debate all by itself.

Let us return to the subject of the bill, drug shortages. Another reason why it is absolutely necessary to have legislation in this area, possibly the most important reason of all, is the safety of patients.

Drug shortages put patients at risk; they also require doctors, pharmacists and nurses to do extra work and ultimately lead to additional costs for all of us.

According to a survey by the Canadian Pharmacists Association, 91% of pharmacists stated that patients have been affected by drug shortages, either because of delays in treatment or because treatment was stopped, or because of the extra cost to purchase medication, extended hospital stays, procedures being delayed or cancelled, or because the original condition worsened.

In some cases, the impact may be minimal overall. However, in a number of cases, shortages can be catastrophic because the cost associated with medication can skyrocket and become too expensive for individuals who need to be on the drug.

Take a concrete case like epilepsy, where stopping medication sometimes has disastrous consequences. When someone stops taking antiepileptics or the medication is or must be changed suddenly, recurrent seizures can become more serious and longer than before. Prolonged attacks that last more than five minutes require emergency medical care and can even be fatal.

How does that tie in to the debate? Between 2009 and 2012, we experienced shortages of at least five different antiepileptic drugs. Some of them were made by a single pharmaceutical company.

These shortages have forced some people to use a different preparation, if available, or to switch medications without any transition, thus putting at risk the lives of all these people.

A government must protect its citizens. What did the government do? Once again, it shirked its responsibilities and blamed the provinces, its second favourite target after the official opposition. Indeed, the government said that, in its opinion, the provinces were responsible for changing their procurement policies.

However, that is not the opinion of the Quebec Minister of Health, Dr. Réjean Hébert, who unequivocally said the following, in the May 10, 2013, edition of L'actualité:

It is also Health Canada's responsibility to manage drug shortages. If the federal government was doing a better job, there would be fewer drug shortages.

It is high time that the federal government take responsibility. It can do so by voting for the bill we are debating today.

First and foremost, we are asking the government to adopt a system for the mandatory disclosure of drug shortages, as called for by the vast majority of patient and health professional groups. Canadians and their health professionals are entitled to have access to information that is crucial for public health.

That system is used in the United States, the European Union and New Zealand. France also adopted a system in the early 1990s and saw a significant drop in the number of shortages.

We are also urging the government to stop being so confrontational with the provinces and territories. We are asking it to work with them and with stakeholders to find a solution that will decrease the number of shortages and reduce their impact on patients and on our health care system.

According to statistics from the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec, the number of drug shortages rose from 33 in 2006 to 207 in 2010. That is unacceptable, dangerous and outrageous. It must be fixed right away. That is why we are asking everyone in the House to support the bill that was introduced by the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

I would like to conclude with a message for Canadians. The NDP believes that the health of Canadians is more important than profits for pharmaceutical companies. With this bill, we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure that Canadians will have access to the drugs they need, when they need them.

When it comes time to vote on this bill, we hope that the Conservative government, for once, will also put the interests of Canadians ahead of those of pharmaceutical companies.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House today to support my colleague's bill, Bill C-523, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (disclosure of drug shortages).

Before I begin, I would like to commend the initiative shown by the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert in tackling a public health problem that is very troubling and unfortunately has very serious consequences, namely, drug shortages. I also wish to congratulate her on her thoughtful work and consultations, and on everything she has done to prepare this bill. Given that she is a doctor, she is very familiar with and knowledgeable of the subject matter. She has introduced a bill that really tackles something that should be a priority for all governments, including the federal government and provincial governments.

My colleague's bill aims to amend the Department of Health Act in order to oblige drug suppliers to advise the minister of any interruption or cessation of the production, distribution or importation of drugs. If it passes, Bill C-523 will also oblige the minister to prepare and implement an emergency response plan to address shortages.

Drug shortages have been a problem in Canada for a long time. For over 40 years, drug shortages have been a growing and recurrent problem. In January 2012, the Sandoz plant closed temporarily, and the company had supply problems again in November of last year. That is a striking example of the disastrous consequences that a drug shortage can have for Canadian citizens.

When a major pharmaceutical manufacturer like Sandoz is having a hard time producing 36 drugs, 16 of which are completely out of stock, that obviously has a direct impact on people's quality of life and health. In fact, 91% of pharmacists report that their patients have been affected at some time by drug shortages. In light of these overwhelming statistics, the NDP believes that this is a very serious problem.

Drug shortages may require pharmacists to resort to alternative treatments or to delay providing a treatment to a patient because there is no pharmaceutical substitute. Sometimes, patients have adverse reactions to ingredients in what was supposed to be a similar drug. This is about chemicals that have a direct impact on how the body works. You cannot just substitute one drug for another and not expect any consequences. Consider drugs used to treat depression, anxiety and psychological conditions. It can take months or even years to find the right dosage or the right drug to treat various illnesses. If there is a shortage and one antidepressant has to be substituted for another, that can have a disastrous effect on people's health and their quality of life.

The NDP thinks these situations are totally unacceptable. Before being elected to the House of Commons, I used to work at the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec as an information officer. One of my main duties was to answer calls when people had questions about the public health insurance plan or even the public drug insurance plan that we are lucky to have in Quebec. The questions were on the cost of the drugs, their billing, or their insurance. Almost every day, I received calls from patients, often seniors unfortunately, who were dealing with a drug shortage. They had to try to find a substitute. Quite often, they had to pay extra money to find a drug that could give them temporary relief, with the risk of suffering side effects. Sometimes, there simply were no drugs available. People had to wait, sometimes at great risk to their lives.

In Quebec, we are quite lucky. The public drug insurance plan covers most of the prescription costs for people who do not have access to private insurance. When a person has to take a brand name drug instead of a generic drug, the extra cost is not covered by the public drug insurance plan. These extra charges come directly out of the pockets of people who have no other choice but to take the brand name drug. They have to rework their budget.

We are talking about seniors on the guaranteed income supplement who are barely making ends meet. They have to deal with drug shortages and maybe pay $50 or $60 more every month. This can easily total up to $100 for some medications.

I cannot imagine people in this same situation outside of Quebec. Some people have no drug coverage and have to pay the entire cost. It is a huge expense and the result of poor planning. No matter the reasons for drug shortages, the fact remains that people do not have any information or only have the information that the pharmaceutical company wants to give them. They are not able to predict them. Pharmacists, doctors and everyone working in the health system are directly affected by the shortages.

I will give another example. I spoke earlier about people with psychological or psychiatric problems. My colleague from Laval—Les Îles talked about people with epilepsy. That is another illness that is difficult to manage. It takes several attempts to find the right medication and the right dosage. If the patient has to skip a dose or change medications, the effects can be terrible. Someone who suffers from grand mal seizures has difficulty coping with the convulsions. If they change medications, the seizures can be more severe, more frequent and more violent. A seizure that lasts more than five minutes requires immediate hospitalization and can even result in death.

We really are talking about the tragic consequences of a lack of medication, even for a day. People who, like me, do not suffer from chronic conditions of that kind, cannot imagine the consequences. But my brother has epilepsy. I have seen the effect of the seizures, even with his medication. He has not had to deal with a drug shortage. I cannot imagine the impact on his daily life, and on my parents, if my family no longer had access to the medications he needs. That is so difficult to live with.

A government has a responsibility to act. We cannot just sweep this into the provinces' backyards, as the Conservative government is doing constantly. We have to take action. We have to do more than simply trust the pharmaceutical industry.

Have I heard anything more ridiculous than that? Not often, but it does not matter. They say that they have established a voluntary disclosure protocol. Wonderful. What additional information have we had since the protocol was established? Not a lot.

It makes absolutely no sense to entrust the lives of millions of Canadians to the good will of the pharmaceutical industry. This is the time for action.

My colleague is proposing to put a stop to the industry's dilly-dallying in disclosing drug shortages. The minister has to stop blaming the provinces for her own inaction and to shoulder her responsibilities for once. The voluntary disclosure protocol that the Conservatives have put in place does not require manufacturers to provide accurate information in a timely manner. They can provide information whenever they choose. No one has been identified to guarantee compliance with the protocol. Therefore we have to wonder what is the use of the protocol, other than providing more paperwork. For a government that does not like red tape, there seems to be a lot of it in their various initiatives, but unfortunately with no concrete results.

The first step in managing a problem like drug shortages would be to show some transparency, so that everyone concerned has a true picture of the situation. That is what my colleague's bill proposes and I congratulate her for her initiative.

Canadians need to have all the necessary information on drug shortages. We strongly believe that the public needs and has a right to all this information. Health care experts also have a right to that information. Pharmacists have a right to have the information as well, because they have to advise their customers. Some patients would like to have generic drugs and some would prefer something else. Pharmacists need to have up-to-date information to be able to advise the people who come to them with a real need.

We could look at what is being done elsewhere. In the United States, New Zealand and the European Union, they have all developed a mandatory disclosure system and have proven that system regulation can be a good thing. France did the same thing in the 1990s, and they have experienced fewer shortages than other western countries since that protocol took effect.

The Association des pharmaciens des établissements de santé du Québec, the Canadian Medical Association and the Cancer Society are all important health care agencies that have expressed their support for my colleague's Bill C-523.

I hope that all members of the House, regardless of their party, will support it as well.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2014 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to speak to this issue and defend the proposal put forward by the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert in Bill C-523, which addresses preventive disclosure of drug shortages by pharmaceutical companies.

This is an important public health issue that affects Canadians from all regions and all walks of life. This is also an opportunity to assert that the health of Canadians is not a free commodity and that public interest takes precedence over free enterprise in the drug industry.

We need to legislate this because, true to form, the Conservative government is watching the problem worsen, is saying it is acting in the interests of Canadians and is making a lot of noise. It gets riled up and then nothing happens. However, the statistics on drug shortages in Canada are stunning.

The working group on drug shortages found that the number of registered drug shortages rose from 92 in 2005 to 310 in 2010. That is an increase of over 300%. It is equivalent to six registered drug shortages per week.

In 2011, 250 drugs were on back order, representing a 40% increase over the previous year. It is clear that supply disruptions are on the rise and that more drugs are being affected.

Here is an analogy. This kind of problem in another industry would have no real impact on the lives of Canadians. If a person wants to buy a new car, but the dealer cannot deliver it on time, that person just goes and buys another make of car. That does not work for the drug industry.

According to the report of the working group on drug shortages that I quoted, drugs that are subject to shortages are essential, which means that they are used to treat or prevent serious health conditions and there are no substitutes. In other words, unlike dissatisfied customers, sick people cannot simply find substitutes for the drugs they need. That happens often, too often.

From January 2010 to August 2011, 93% of the 127 unforeseen shortages involved essential drugs and 41% were both essential and produced by a single manufacturer. This kind of breakdown in the supply chain has a significant impact on the health of all Canadians.

In 2012, the injection drug shortage caused at least 65 surgeries to be delayed. Doctors surveyed by the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association and the hospital pharmacists association confirmed that drug shortages affected their patients' health.

It is important to understand that illnesses do not wait for the drugs that treat them to become available. When there is a shortage, illnesses continue to flourish, worsen and spread. No one is immune: rich or poor, young or old, Canadian or not. Illnesses spread if they are not treated, and that is that.

These interruptions in the supply chain also have an economic impact, first of all, because they drive up the cost of the health care system. A delay in treatment or surgical intervention causes the patient's condition to deteriorate. The longer we wait to treat that person, the harder and more costly it is. Some 91% of hospital physicians agree. These delays also cause an increase in the workload of health care providers.

All of these disruptions wind up being more costly for our health care system, and therefore our economy. Let us not forget that healthy employees are essential to keeping our businesses running smoothly.

A 2011 labour force survey conducted by Statistics Canada ranks health problems as the number one cause of absenteeism at work, apart from vacation. In 2011, every full-time employee lost on average eight working days because of sickness. That is a total of 105 million work days lost annually.

Canada is experiencing a labour shortage in certain sectors, which is threatening our competitiveness and our growth. Our businesses even have to call upon temporary foreign workers at times in order to meet their labour needs. Thus, it is important to tackle this public health problem immediately in order to improve the health of our workers and reduce absenteeism.

Has the government taken any sensible action to address the shortcomings in the drug supply chain? Absolutely not. It is hiding behind its usual ideology: the free market. Let it go; leave it alone; the market will take care of itself.

With that approach, it is putting the health of Canadians in the hands of pharmaceutical industries. It is forgetting that it alone has the possibility of anticipating the needs, and knowing the state of the supply and the capacity of the pharmaceutical industries to meet demand. The government refuses to ask them whether they will have the capacity to meet demand in the short, medium and long terms so that it can adjust. It prefers to rely on the goodwill of the industry. The Conservatives keep extolling the virtues of business, but here, they are not acting as good managers.

The NDP is a responsible party that understands the realities and challenges of public health. That is why we have developed a constructive approach. It is based on the need to inform and to anticipate the need for drugs in the country.

It is simple. We must introduce a mandatory reporting system that requires pharmaceutical companies to inform Health Canada of any potential shortage, as the College of Family Physicians of Canada is calling for.

The NDP wants to ensure that the health care professionals have access to the necessary information to take care of their patients and to make their work more efficient. For that, we must oblige the pharmaceutical industries to report any drug shortages. We must not rely on their goodwill.

Other developed countries do it and it works very well. In the United States, for example, Barack Obama's administration issued an executive order last October requiring all manufacturers to report shortages to the Food and Drug Administration.

It is time for the federal government to do its job and look after public health. Canadians' health is more important than the profits of the pharmaceutical industry. We must take appropriate action to guarantee that everyone has access to health care and medication. That is why I support the bill before us today.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2014 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, everyone knows that the serious drug shortages Canada is facing are jeopardizing our health care. Health Canada issues notices and warnings about medications.

Obviously, when health care is affected, our economy is as well. We can all agree that sick people and people who are not working cost a lot of money. A mom or dad who has to stay home when their child needs treatment because they could not get the right medication also costs a lot of money. Hospital costs are also affected. It is not good for anyone.

Who has to find the solution? Since health care is a provincial jurisdiction, some say that it should be up to them. That is not how it works. It is not that easy. It is true that provincial governments share part of the responsibility, especially with respect to supplies. When pharmaceutical companies are getting virtually exclusive contracts, competitors have less interest in manufacturing drugs, which therefore limits the choice of drugs.

However, the federal government must shoulder some responsibility too. Drug shortage problems have been growing since the mid-2000s. They affect both generic drugs and innovative drugs, which are more expensive and are not necessarily Canadian drugs. Those are drugs imported form pharmaceutical companies abroad. They are more expensive, of course.

That is why a number of countries, such as France and the United States, have introduced policies to reduce and control the magnitude of those shortages. There are many reasons for the shortages. It is not just because not enough drugs were produced. For instance, there have been cases where the raw materials went bad because the facilities of a pharmaceutical company were in bad shape. The drugs that were subsequently produced were not of good quality; they were actually dangerous. Therefore there can be many causes and quality control is very important.

In the past, we knew where the drugs came from. They often came from certain European countries. Now they can also come from emerging economies, where quality control is less rigorous than in North America or Europe. We must be careful. That is the federal government's responsibility. Emerging economies have supply problems. As a result, there is a significant increase in demand. Our population is aging and therefore needs more and more drugs. For some diseases, we can now find drugs that we did not have before, so demand has gone up. However, the main reason is that the population is increasingly aging. We must look after our seniors who have worked for us to be where we are today.

While demand has gone up, production has remained the same. Clearly, private companies want to make a profit. We all agree that they are not there as a charity.

Finally, since major patents have expired, pharmaceutical companies are focusing on producing new drugs that are more expensive instead of producing existing drugs that are just as effective and cheaper. That is also something to keep an eye on.

In 2011, the United States tried to find a solution to this problem. They required that all companies disclose all shortages. They also encouraged them to report any slowdown in production because these situations can be prevented.

It is up to the provincial governments and especially to us, federally elected members, to find a solution. I would like to address my colleagues now. It is up to us, as legislators, to pass the right laws. The health of Canadians is also our responsibility.

Clearly, I will be supporting my colleague's bill, Bill C-523, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act concerning the disclosure of drug shortages, which would oblige drug suppliers to advise the minister of any interruption or cessation of the production, distribution, or importation of drugs and oblige the minister to prepare and implement an emergency response plan to address drug shortages.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2014 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind members that drug shortages are a major public health problem in which the federal government has a role to play.

This bill would give Canadians access to the same information that Europeans and Americans already have in terms of care. Drug shortages put patients at risk. They create more work for doctors, pharmacists and nurses in our healthcare system, and result in additional costs.

We need to switch to solution mode. In a letter to the industry, the Minister of Health has asked the industry to regulate itself. A new website is also available for voluntary reporting. These initiatives do not really help with planning, however, since the information is not always updated during a shortage.

Professor Jean-François Bussières looked at the drug shortages reported on the vendredipm.ca website—these are shortages from the Sigma purchasing group, which makes mandatory reporting of shortages part of its supply contracts. His study showed that 20% of all drug shortages reported on vendredipm.ca are not reported on the government's drug shortages website. This is ironic.

Having the industry require its suppliers to disclose any supply shortage to protect its production capacity seems normal to the Conservative government. It does not seem so keen to apply the same logic to pharmaceutical companies by requiring them to disclose drug shortages.

The minister spoke during the first part of the debate on my bill and said that it did not amend the right law. I would like to say something. The health of Canadians is more important to me than pharmaceutical companies' profits. It is the Minister of Health's responsibility to guarantee that Canadians have access to drugs at all times. Unless I am mistaken, the Department of Health Act, which I seek to amend, sets out the minister's prerogatives. That is why I am asking the minister to coordinate efforts to prevent any drug shortage, remedy it and develop and implement more emergency measures to address these shortages.

The federal government, which is content to deregulate a number of public safety measures, claims that the voluntary approach in this area is working. However, the facts tell another story. Drug shortages are not reported within a reasonable amount of time to allow for a transition period. The Conservatives pushed with all their might for a voluntary approach that has not worked in a number of sectors. The penuriesdemedicament.ca website and the protocol for the notification and communication of drug shortages include many aspects of my bill, including the disclosure of drug shortages, but not the legal obligation to do so.

There is a reason why a number of groups of health professionals, including the Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, are calling for this mandatory approach. We are behind here in Canada, because the United States and Europe, our largest economic partners, have already passed similar bills.

In closing, I call on the Conservative government to accept its responsibility to protect public health and to pass my bill concerning the disclosure of drug shortages.

I urge my Conservative colleagues not to vote against common sense.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

moved that Bill C-523, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (disclosure of drug shortages) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present Bill C-523, Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages Act.

Drug shortages are a public health issue. Shortages have a significant impact on the health of Canadians, the practices of health care professionals and system costs.

The most important issue is that of patient health. Drug shortages are a danger to their health because they delay access to drugs and patients are given a less-effective drug with a greater risk of adverse effects. Drug shortages do not allow for a transition period, which is very important for patients on certain drugs.

Drug shortages are not a new problem, let alone a problem unique to Quebec or Canada. This is a global problem that has existed since the 1970s. However, the problem has become more pronounced in recent years. The number of shortages has exploded. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of shortages of FDA-approved drugs increased from 92 to 310.

The Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec recorded 33 shortages in 2006, but 207 in 2010, before the major Sandoz episode in 2012. This crisis attracted a little more interest for this important public health issue.

Following this crisis, the NDP called for and got an emergency debate, but most importantly, we had a motion pass unanimously in March 2012. The motion read as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should: (a) in cooperation with provinces, territories and industry, develop a nationwide strategy to anticipate, identify, and manage shortages of essential medications; (b) require drug manufacturers to report promptly to Health Canada any planned disruption or discontinuation in production; and (c) expedite the review of regulatory submissions in order to make safe and effective medications available to the Canadian public.

What has been done since then to implement this motion? The Conservative government's database for voluntary reporting of drug shortages failed to ensure a transition period that is crucial to the health of Canadians. The government is leaving the health of Canadians in the hands of pharmaceutical companies, which are the only parties that decide when to report drug shortages.

More recently, the Minister of Health also announced the introduction of the multi-stakeholder toolkit and the protocol for the notification and communication of drug shortages, which:

...sets out clear expectations, principles and processes for how and when stakeholders across the supply chain share information in anticipation of or response to a drug shortage.

These are interesting and necessary tools, but they are far from sufficient. Neither the protocol nor the toolkit require manufacturers to provide accurate and timely information, and most importantly, no one is ultimately responsible for ensuring compliance with the protocol. This is not up to par—Canadians deserve better, and that is why I introduced this bill.

Moreover, in January 2013, Diane Lamarre, president of the Quebec order of pharmacists, stated that what the federal government had done so far was not enough.

Quebec's Minister of Health, Dr. Hébert, shared a similar sentiment when he said, “If the federal government was doing its job properly, shortages would be better prevented”.

The bill on mandatory disclosure of drug shortages addresses the need to introduce a transition period to ensure that the health of Canadians is protected.

The bill stipulates that the pharmaceutical company shall notify the minister of any planned or foreseeable interruption of the production, distribution or importation of a drug at least six months in advance. If a pharmaceutical company decides to cease producing, distributing or importing a drug, it must notify the minister at least 12 months in advance. The bill also stipulates that any companies found in violation of the act are liable to a fine.

Although we are talking about the regulatory framework for disclosing drug shortages, I am not suggesting that we reinvent the wheel.

Mandatory disclosure of drug shortages exists in the United States, New Zealand and in the European Union. Why not here in Canada? It has been called for by various groups, including the College of Family Physicians of Canada in a letter to the Prime Minister in 2011, and the Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec. Even officials at Health Canada have recommended to the minister that it be required.

Mandatory disclosure of drug shortages will have a direct positive impact on the practices of health professionals.

This bill has had many supporters. Some of the groups that support my initiative include: the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities; the College of Family Physicians of Canada; the Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec, which adopted a resolution to support my bill; the Association des anesthésiologistes du Québec; the Newfoundland & Labrador Pharmacy Board; the Prince Edward Island Pharmacy Board; the Association des pharmaciens des établissements de santé du Québec; the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions; and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.

Drug shortages have a direct impact on the health of patients, first and foremost. These shortages undermine the health of Canadians and make it harder for our health system to run smoothly. The facts are overwhelming. Drug shortages have a significant impact on patient health and the work of health care professionals and put enormous pressure on health care costs.

The survey confirms that shortages are becoming increasingly common, as 78% of pharmacists said that they had difficulty sourcing a drug in their last shift at work. The survey also confirms the effects this has on the health care system, since 91% of hospital pharmacists agreed or strongly agreed that drug shortages are increasing costs to the health care system, and 76% of hospital pharmacists reported a significant impact on their workload.

The impact that drug shortages have on the patients is even more worrisome. According to a survey, 64% of doctors indicated that shortages of drugs had consequences for patients, and 78% of hospital pharmacists agreed or strongly agreed that the shortages adversely affect patients.

Furthermore, 91% of pharmacists said that their patients had been inconvenienced as a result of drug shortages. The impacts are greater in certain cases. For some, the consequences are limited to having to take—and pay for—a sometimes more expensive alternative drug.

For people with epilepsy, for example, the situation is more severe. When people suddenly stop taking anticonvulsants, seizures can become longer and more serious, and may require urgent care. They can sometimes even be fatal. Between 2009 and 2012 there were shortages for five different anticonvulsants, some of which were made by the same pharmaceutical company. These shortages forced some people to use a different preparation or, if available, another drug without the benefit of a transition period. That is unacceptable and it needs to change.

The Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society published the results of a survey of its members last June in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia. The statistics are alarming. The sample included 60% of the society's members in all Canadian jurisdictions.

The survey revealed that 66% of respondents had experienced at least one shortage, forcing 49% of respondents to administer an inferior anesthetic. In addition, 8% of respondents witnessed drug errors caused by a shortage, 14% regarded drug shortages as having prolonged patients' recovery from anesthesia, and over 10% viewed shortages as resulting in an increased number of postoperative complications. That, however, is not the worst of it. The worst part is that, according to the survey, four respondents indicated that a shortage of anesthesia drugs and other essential drugs led to postoperative deaths. The drug shortage has become a human tragedy. We have to act now to put an end to that tragedy.

It is also clear that these shortages have had a significant impact on the work of health professionals. In the fall of 2012, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association and the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists surveyed their members. That survey revealed alarming findings.

The survey confirmed that shortages are becoming increasingly frequent, with 78% of pharmacists stating that they had difficulty sourcing a drug in their last shift at work. The survey also confirmed that this situation is affecting the health system because 91% of hospital pharmacists agreed or strongly agreed that drug shortages are increasing costs to the health care system, and 76% of hospitals reported a significant impact on their workload.

We have wasted enough time. According to the Canadian Press, Health Canada did not choose mandatory reporting, in spite of the recommendations of the department's officials, because of the time required.

I will quote a Canadian Press article from December 27, 2012. Steve Outhouse, spokesperson for the former minister of health explained:

...a voluntary system was chosen because it would take too long for Health Canada to bring forward regulations mandating companies disclose production gaps.

More than a year later, nothing has been done to move in that direction. Because of this government's failure to take action, people are paying a high price.

I realize that mandatory reporting will not solve the problem of drug shortages. However, it is an indispensable tool that can help better manage the situation and provide patients and their health care providers with pertinent and complete information in order to better manage the consequences.

The United States, the European Union and New Zealand have all opted for mandatory reporting.

There is nothing revolutionary about this bill. It is based on what is happening around the world.

The financial penalities included in the bill are modelled on a proposal contained in a bill passed by the U.S. Congress. The principle is as follows: if the act is not enforced, there must be consequences.

It is important that we move towards mandatory disclosure. This is not a witch hunt against the pharmaceutical companies because I know they did a lot during the 2012 crisis. Sandoz, in particular, notified its clients of upcoming shortages. However, it is important to ensure that patients are safe and have access to the treatment they need in a timely manner.

I am asking all my colleagues and the government to support the bill because it is in the best interests of all Canadians.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2013 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, this private member's bill would propose creating an entirely new layer of bureaucracy charged with the near-Herculean task of having to monitor mandatory reporting.

I do not understand how the member opposite believes that this would achieve anything. The United States has mandatory reporting and it has never once been able to levy a fine. Could the member explain this?

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.
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NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for asking the question. I feel it is a relevant question.

In fact, the bill will not have a financial or administrative impact. When the reporting is not mandatory, the consequences are more costly. We know that human lives have been lost.

In terms of the penalties in the United States, I will say that the penalty was still in force when I introduced the bill. However, it has subsequently been withdrawn.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in response to what the parliamentary secretary said, I wonder if she has thought about the fact that in the U.S. the FDA does not have to monitor the fines because it has a mandatory system. It is because of the mandatory system that there is reporting. The Americans have not actually had to use the fines. They are there as a penalty, but in talking with officials at Health Canada, my understanding is that the mandatory system in the U.S. has meant that they have not even had to use the fines. It is actually a positive thing, but maybe she has not thought about that.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the NDP health critic. I know that she is working very hard on the health portfolio.

In the United States, as in New Zealand and Europe, everyone chose the mandatory system over the voluntary system. Here, we deplore the fact that the government gives companies the option to report drug shortages or not. In fact, the poll indicated the effects quite well. Human lives have even been lost.

The United States may have withdrawn the fines, but they were there initially. The approach is mandatory, not voluntary.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Eve Adams Conservative Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in fact this private member's bill also appears to attempt to amend the wrong act. Pharmaceuticals are already regulated under the Food and Drugs Act, yet this bill proposes to amend the Department of Health Act. The word “drug” only appears once in the entire Department of Health Act, and when it does appear, it is because it is referencing the Food and Drugs Act.

I would ask why the member opposite proposes to amend an entirely different act from the one in which pharmaceuticals are actually governed.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to amend the bill, but I am asking that the mandatory reporting of drug shortages be included. I want to see it in the bill.

I know that my colleagues opposite might not agree, but, as I said and I repeat, I am totally open to amendments being made in committee. What matters to me is that we are already starting to see the mandatory approach.

Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-523 and to take this opportunity to highlight our government's efforts to address drug shortages in Canada and to briefly outline why I believe this bill is not the right approach for Canadians.

Drug shortages are a global problem our government takes very seriously. Many of us have heard from our constituents about the impact drug shortages can have on patients and health care providers. Patients and their families need to be confident that they will have access to the drugs they need when they need them. This country's doctors need to know that when they write a prescription for a patient or make a request for a drug to be available during surgery that it will be available. Addressing these concerns, however, is no easy task.

Figuring out how best to address this issue has been a principle concern of our government and other key stakeholders across the health care system. That is why we are working with drug companies and the provinces and territories as part of a pan-Canadian strategy to manage and prevent shortages and to reduce their impact.

Our government recognizes that the only way to effectively prevent and manage drug shortages is through a multi-stakeholder approach. That is why we have called upon stakeholders across the drug supply chain to work together to take action.

In 2012, in partnership with the government of Alberta, we jointly launched the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee on Drug Shortages. This committee includes membership from industry, health professional associations, and governments. They are all working together on concrete measures to address three priority areas, including prevention of drug shortages, advanced notification and communication, and shortage mitigation and crisis management. I am pleased to say that this collaborative approach was endorsed by federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of health in 2012.

While this multi-stakeholder approach is relatively new, I am pleased to report that we have seen real progress in public notification of shortages on an industry-funded website; concrete tools to mitigate drug shortages across the supply chain; and coordinated action on recent drug shortages between the federal government, provinces, territories, and industry. Through our productive working relationship, industry has taken important steps to improve public notification of shortages and to provide Canadians, health care practitioners, and patients with the information they need on drug shortages.

However, Canada's drug supply system is changing and improving. It is also becoming more open and transparent.

In response to a call from the Minister of Health, industry launched drugshortages.ca in 2012. Through this site, industry has been working collaboratively and voluntarily to provide public notification of actual and anticipated drug shortages. The information available on this site is critical to helping all elements of the health care system adapt to potential supply disruptions before patient care is negatively impacted. Most importantly, this approach is working. Back in August, for example, one major company, Sandoz, voluntarily posted a number of upcoming drug shortages to this site, well in advance of an anticipated disruption.

We will continue to monitor and push industry to ensure timely and comprehensive posting on this website to build on the success we have seen thus far.

The multi-stakeholder approach has also resulted in the collaborative development of concrete tools to prevent and manage drug shortages across the supply chain. This September, two tools were announced by the Minister of Health, jointly with her Alberta counterpart, alongside industry and health professional association representatives from the committee. The first of these tools is a national protocol for the public notification of drug shortages. This protocol sets out clear expectations for how and when stakeholders across the supply chain share information in the event of a drug shortage. This protocol provides much-needed direction on roles and responsibilities and details on how to communicate to ensure that Canadians continue to receive the most up-to-date information on potential and actual drug shortages.

The second tool is a multi-stakeholder tool kit that identifies key measures that can be taken across the drug supply chain to prevent and reduce the impact of drug shortages. This tool kit provides a detailed outline of Canada's drug supply chain and the roles and responsibilities of key players in the event of a shortage.

Finally, the multi-stakeholder approach has resulted in unprecedented levels of collaboration and coordinated action on recent drug shortages among all levels of government and industry.

When these shortages are communicated or detected, stakeholders from across the health care system and drug supply chain are now coming together to identify the best available measures to address them. These improvements will help ensure that all stakeholders have access to the essential information necessary to support a robust supply of drugs in Canada.

The benefits and successes of our current multi-stakeholder approach to addressing drug shortages provide a useful background as to why I will not be supporting Bill C-523 and why our government will instead continue to support ongoing multi-stakeholder efforts.

This bill seeks to amend the Department of Health Act to require drug suppliers to notify the Minister of Health of any disruption in the supply of drugs and to impose fines for non-compliance.

Where Bill C-523 falls short is that it ignores the significant good will and positive momentum seen to date to address this important issue. In doing so, this bill prematurely concludes that mandatory notification is possible, enforceable, or would necessarily lead to a reduction in the frequency and duration of these shortages. I do not think this bill can achieve that.

This bill also fails to recognize the complexity of the supply chain and the distinct roles and responsibilities of its stakeholders in the event of a shortage. Industry's primary role in the event of a potential or actual drug shortage situation must be more than just providing notification. Our multi-stakeholder approach demands much more from industry than just notification. It demands that industry work collaboratively with stakeholders across the supply chain to review their manufacturing practices, find alternate products, and make the health and well-being of Canadians their principle concern.

Rather than focusing attention on all stakeholders and their different but complementary roles, Bill C-523 seeks to expand the role of the federal government. In doing so, this bill attempts to impose additional bureaucracy, burdensome oversight, and needless, unenforceable penalties. This ineffective, big government approach would not reduce drug shortages.

It is because of our efforts with all stakeholders that companies are providing advance notice of shortages online, including information about alternative treatments.

The lessons learned from the 2012 report of the Standing Committee on Health and from current multi-stakeholder efforts are that improved notification is only one component of a comprehensive strategy. We now know that this comprehensive approach to drug shortages requires an integrated focus on prevention, notification and communication, and mitigation and crisis management.

While our government will not support Bill C-523, we will continue to monitor this issue very closely. We are also open to considering a mandatory approach, if needed. Embarking upon such an approach at this time, however, would hinder the progress we have made so far.

Going forward, we will continue to expect greater transparency and accountability from industry. We will implement a new public register of manufacturers that have committed to advance notification and will publicly post letters to industry members who fail to comply.

However, let me be clear. If at any point it becomes clear that industry is not fulfilling its obligations to provide Canadians with timely, comprehensive, and reliable information on drug shortages, our government will not hesitate to bring forward a plan for stronger federal action.

In closing, Bill C-523 falls short of the strong, collaborative approach and action we have taken on drug shortages. It is an action Canadians expect and deserve from our government. We will continue to build on the successes we have seen so far, to draw on the strength of our partners, and to work together to prevent and manage drug shortages in Canada.