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Evidence of meeting #36 for Health in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was market.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jim Keon  President, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association
Russell Williams  President, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)
David Johnston  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management
Kathleen Boyle  Vice-President, Services, HealthPRO Procurement Services Inc.
Michel Robidoux  President, Sandoz Canada, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association
Mark Ferdinand  Senior Director, Health and Economic Policy, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)
Michael Blanchard  Clinical Director, Pharmacy Services, HealthPRO Procurement Services Inc.
Jeremy Desai  President and Chief Operating Officer, Apotex Inc., Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Who's going to take that one?

Mr. Desai.

10:20 a.m.

Dr. Jeremy Desai President and Chief Operating Officer, Apotex Inc., Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association

Good morning, Madam Chair and honourable members.

I'll answer the first question regarding the FDA. I think it's important to understand that there are no differing standards amongst what I would call the tier 1 regulators, whether it's the FDA, Health Canada, the European Union, or Australia, to name some of those.

What really happened, what triggered FDA's increased enforceability, and I think it may have been mentioned earlier on, resulted from the heparin contamination from a Chinese source that resulted in several deaths in the U.S., and very rapidly there was contaminated melamine in milk that also came from China. That coincided with the appointment of a new commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Margaret Hamburg. One of her first public speeches talked about increased enforceability to drug manufacturers, both branded manufacturers and generic manufacturers. That increased enforceability has really resulted in either mandated action imposed by the FDA as a result of warning letters and other instruments that are available to them, or voluntary action taken by the manufacturers to ensure that the products they are putting on the marketplace will meet the stricter enforceability compliance guidelines that the FDA imposed and other regulatory agencies followed thereafter. The standard did not change.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

You have time.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

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

Yes, that is right.

As for my second question...

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Yes, go ahead.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

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

...you have somewhat answered my concern, but I am still asking myself questions about the fact that it is an American and not a Canadian institution that is doing the monitoring. I would also like someone to answer my question about a mandatory system versus a voluntary reporting system.

10:20 a.m.

President, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association

Jim Keon

We are currently reporting on a voluntary basis because there are no regulations. As we have already explained, our companies are doing everything possible to report on current and future shortages. We are therefore working with all of the stakeholders in the sector and in cooperation with Health Canada, and we are prepared to continue doing this. Should the system become mandatory, we will comply, but we do think that our voluntary reporting system is good.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

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

Could Mrs. Boyle answer my question?

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Thank you.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

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

She was saying that, among...

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

My apologies, but time is up.

Go ahead, Mr. Norlock.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and through you to the witnesses, thank you for appearing today.

I'm not usually a member of the committee, but like every Canadian, especially when you get up to my age and you see your doctor, you have to occasionally take certain medications. This is very important, not just to me as a legislator, but to every Canadian.

My question would be to our Rx&D folks, particularly Mr. Williams. You told us you were making progress on your one-stop website for notifications. You also realize, of course, as we all do, that timely information about anticipated drug shortages is very important so that our health care system can respond, and can, if necessary, find alternatives to change their contracts so that drug therapy isn't interrupted for patients who need it.

I have a couple of questions. First, how quickly will you have it up and running? I think you somewhat indicated that. We need to know how quickly you anticipate having it up and running.

Second, would your organization be willing to give six months' notification of any drug shortages? Health practitioners are very busy. I know my doctor has at least 3,000 patients that he sees, some monthly, some every other year, but there are a lot of them.

In particular, I'm very much interested in this one-stop shopping. We can sit around this table and each of the parties here can have a whole lot of “gibbaldy gabbaldy” about what the policies should be, but the basic fundamentals of our society are that we're driven by profits, we're driven by price, and those other things.

I'm looking at page 4 and the third and fourth paragraphs, where you talk about an unequivocal answer, and that you do not favour—or that the current Canadian policy environment does not favour—better access to prescription drugs, and you talk about the sole sourcing. I guess people sometimes just don't trust big companies—big pharma—when they see these huge profits. You might want to talk about the research and development that goes into it.

Primarily, if you would answer the first couple of questions...and then let's talk turkey about sole sourcing.

10:25 a.m.

President, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)

Russell Williams

Thank you for the question.

The website isn't ours anymore. We share it, coming together with the associations and others of the working group. We're very proud of our leadership role, but it is a joint effort. You can go through all the websites to get to the one. I think that was an important place. There were four up before, so people were confused about where they could find the best information.

We've all worked together. It's not a perfect model yet, but it's coming together so you can get the information. Let me tell you, I get notices and they're coming in all the time. So we're tracking that.

In terms of the first step, we're in good shape. Timely information is important. I do want to put a little caution to this, though, because I've also heard anecdotally that we have to be careful, when we're talking about so-called anticipated shortages, to watch out for human nature, behaviour of hoarding, protecting supply, and all of a sudden magnifying the problem we're talking about. That's a difficult thing. On one hand—I think HealthPRO mentioned it—you're trying to balance competitiveness, information, and supply, so it's that right balance that we're trying to get at. On the first part, I think we're in good shape.

Ultimately, my point was that we can have the best reporting in the world, but we need a new system, because drug shortages will occur for the multiplicity of reasons that we all listen for. If we don't have multiple suppliers—

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Give me your best new system then. Talk about your new system, and be succinct, please.

10:25 a.m.

President, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)

Russell Williams

It's to move away from sole-source procurement strategies. Find a way to have multiple sources of supply, in which you can adjust and gear up when things happen.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

So what does your collective prefer? What system would you prefer?

10:25 a.m.

President, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)

Russell Williams

I think that's it. Right now we believe that if you do sole-source contracting, you're driving away competition, you're driving away choice, and you won't be able to adjust later on, notwithstanding the great efforts we're going to do in terms of reporting.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Who should referee that?

10:25 a.m.

President, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)

Russell Williams

I think the individual buyers. As you see, HealthPRO is talking about it. I think the provinces and the federal government—

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Should it be the government or should it be the industry—

10:25 a.m.

President, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)

Russell Williams

In terms of purchasing?

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

—and the marketplace?

10:25 a.m.

President, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)

Russell Williams

It's the marketplace that will control that. So if the private sector is buying, they will control it. If governments are buying it, they should control it.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Who should referee to make sure that the best interests of Canadian safety—

10:25 a.m.

President, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx & D)

Russell Williams

The government. For instance, if it's a government program—