Thank you very much, Chairperson.
Thank you to the witnesses for coming here today.
This is obviously a very urgent and important issue we're discussing today. It's an issue that has concerned many Canadians across the country. As you know, we had an emergency debate in Parliament on March 14, which is not a regular thing. It's not easy to get an emergency debate. That was followed by a motion that was passed unanimously by the House, which I'm sure you're aware of, on March 14. It called for a number of things, which I'll go into.
It's interesting to hear your presentations today. I think all of you have said, from varying perspectives, that this is a very complex situation. In fact, you've all gone to great lengths to describe what you believe are some of the factors involved in the drug shortages. What I take from that is that yes, there are complexities, but it's something that actually requires an intervention.
I don't know how anybody could argue that the status quo is acceptable and that these shortages will be kind of up and down and ongoing, on and off. To me, the immediate response is that there has to be a much stronger intervention in the public interest. I just want to put that out there. The motion we passed on March 14 clearly outlines that we need a national strategy that anticipates, identifies, and manages this drug shortage question—this is what was passed through the House of Commons—and ensures that there's required reporting.
In trying to sort through all these causes of the shortages, I noticed that it was only Mr. Keon, from the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, who, when you listed the most common causes, used the phrase “marketplace issues”. I'd like to know what those are.
I don't know if you're aware that the Canadian Medical Association surveyed their members—basically the doctors who are facing these shortages. One doctor put it very bluntly:
I find it interesting that the ones I have trouble accessing are always the lowest cost alternative and always need a more expensive substitution. It fuels my paranoid suspicions about Big Pharma only wanting to produce drugs with a higher profit margin.
I'm very curious to know what these marketplace issues are in terms of mergers and in terms of pricing. Apparently, many of the shortages apply to the generics, which may be taken off the market. Suddenly they're not available. It does cause enormous suspicion. I think this whole issue of marketplace issues is very important for us to pursue.
Second, I know that in New Zealand, smaller buyers come together. They have a contractual arrangement whereby the suppliers themselves must develop other sources. It's part of the contract, and there are heavy penalties if they don't follow that.
I'd like to ask HealthPRO, specifically, if that's something they've considered here in Canada. There's a way to actually ensure in the contract that there are alternatives, which the suppliers themselves follow through on.
I'll ask those two questions.