Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here today. You've really helped illuminate not only the problem but also what we need to do. I really appreciate that. I want to jump right in and focus on what we can do.
There's something in the pharmacists' report from December 2010 that you distributed that you didn't exactly say today, but it's very clear in your report, and I'd like to quote from it. On page 11, under “causes”, you say:
What is missing in the drug supply chain is any organization or party that holds accountability for the supply chain from a system-wide perspective. Neither government nor any third party has an oversight function for the drug distribution system, and therefore drug supply is dictated in large measure by the market.
You go on from there to spell that out a little more.
I think this is a very telling comment, because everybody is saying from varying perspectives that there is no oversight, no mechanism to do this. We're completely reliant or dependent on, or held captive to—however you want to put it—what's going on in the marketplace.
I would also comment that in the brief that was just presented by the Canadian Agency for Drug and Technologies in Health, you also point out that the drug shortages are often difficult. You mention the mergers and the reluctance to share details of the shortages, again for business case reasons.
There are two questions that I would like to get at and have you answer. First of all, Mr. O'Rourke, you suggested that your organization might be able to fulfill that function as an independent overseer of information and in looking for substitutes. I'd like you to spell out how you could take that on and how quickly. I'd like others to comment on whether or not that is feasible.
Dr. Lexchin, in your brief you speak about establishing a publicly owned company. I was very interested to read in your brief that in the mid-1980s there actually was such a publicly owned company, called Connaught Laboratories. I don't recall that myself, but I wonder if you can speak a little bit more about this. I think your recommendations are great. This additional one about having a publicly owned company to ensure that some of the essential medications are there and that we won't have to face these kinds of shortages is a very brilliant suggestion.
I'd like you to speak a little more on how Connaught Laboratories worked, if you have that information. I don't know what happened to it, why it went under, or whether it was just done out of business by the government. Then I'd like the others to address the question of what kind of independent agency we need to provide this oversight.