Evidence of meeting #128 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was health.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Simon Kennedy  Deputy Minister, Department of Health
Siddika Mithani  President, Public Health Agency of Canada
Michel Perron  Executive Vice-President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Paul Glover  President, Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Robert-Falcon Ouellette  Winnipeg Centre, Lib.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Fantastic.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

We certainly have to make sure we address that if we want people to get the help they need.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Thank you, Minister.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Now we go to Dr. Eyolfson.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Minister, and thank you to everyone else for attending today.

We were talking about the different aspects of illicit drug use and the different problems. A big problem in the Prairies, one that's been getting a lot of attention, is methamphetamine. We've seen dramatic increases in Manitoba, also through Saskatchewan and Alberta, and we're hearing reports that it's showing up in Ontario and the Maritimes as well. Earlier this year, I introduced a motion to this committee to study methamphetamine. We actually had our first meeting on October 29.

I asked you a question in the House on November 1 about the government's actions to help communities affected by meth. You talked about $150 million being devoted to the emergency treatment fund and about the federal government participating in the methamphetamine task force in Winnipeg, which will involve all three levels of government.

Could you update us on how this fund will assist these communities impacted by methamphetamine and also on the latest developments on the methamphetamine task force?

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Sure. Thank you once again for your question and your work. I know that you're very interested in this issue and concerned about this issue, Doug, so thank you.

When we look at the patterns of problematic substance use, we certainly recognize that they differ across the country. We see it perhaps in pockets, but when I've gone across Canada, I know that in some areas.... If I go to B.C., opioids are really the issue they want to discuss. When I've gone to the Prairies or to your province, I've been told very clearly that the predominant issue of concern is in the area of methamphetamines.

With respect to the investments we're making and the $150 million in budget 2018 for the emergency treatment fund, many individuals thought that was specifically for the current opioid crisis. However, the $150 million really is a treatment fund for all problematic substance use issues. If the province or territory chooses to make those investments to deal specifically with a meth crisis on the ground, it is completely up to them to provide additional services to clients who need them the most.

We are currently finalizing negotiations, actually, with Manitoba. We hope to be signing that bilateral agreement for the emergency treatment fund in the very near future.

I really want to commend the City of Winnipeg for putting together this task force, because they certainly see that it is a crisis. I'm pleased to say we'll have a senior public health official who will be sitting on that committee as well to provide any support they can. It's also my understanding that a member of Parliament will be sitting on that committee. We look forward to seeing if there's anything we can do to assist. We're more than happy to do so.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

All right. Thank you.

Just changing gears here, we've talked about our commitment to pharmacare. As you well know, that's something I've been quite involved in. I believe it is an important issue. I'm looking forward to Dr. Hoskins' report.

As you might guess, there is some opposition from certain players with financial interests in the status quo in our pharmaceutical coverage system. One of them involves our initiatives to control drug prices. There are claims from industry that if we lower the price Canada pays for its drugs, this will decrease investment in research, decrease the development of new drugs and put the safety of Canadians at risk.

Could you respond to the veracity of this claim?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I guess first and foremost, as I indicated earlier, I think we all recognize that we have to ensure that Canadians have access to prescription medication. It's just not fathomable that in a country as rich as Canada, some Canadians have to choose between paying for groceries or paying for their medication. That's why I'm pleased to be part of a government that is moving forward with respect to this work that needs to be done.

Dr. Eric Hoskins has met with several individuals from coast to coast to coast with respect to this area. He has met with different companies, pharmaceutical companies, and different experts in the field. We want to make sure we put the best path forward with respect to Canadians. We want to make sure Canadians will be able to afford prescription medication. That's why we want to move forward with this type of plan.

With respect to industries, we certainly have heard differing points of views from them. That information is being collected by Dr. Hoskins, and I'm sure it will be part of the report he'll be presenting to us in the spring of 2019. I look forward to receiving the committee's report and I look forward to being able to move forward with an option.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Thank you.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Time's up.

Now we go to Mr. Lobb.

December 6th, 2018 / 9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thanks, Minister, for coming here today.

I have a question on opioids. Is it time to get rid of generic opioids?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I think we have to recognize that opioids are used for patients in certain situations, to treat patient issues. We have to recognize that.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

We do, yes, but what about abuse? Those are the number-one abused pills, aren't they?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I don't know if they're the number-one abused pills.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

They're crushable, injectable, etc. Wouldn't it be better to have a tamper-resistant opioid?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

What do you mean by that, specifically?

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

I mean one that you can't crush, melt, or inject; there's a ban on those in the U.S. I just wonder why we don't do that here.

9:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Health

Simon Kennedy

Mr. Chair, this was an issue that Health Canada examined a number of years ago. The government early in its tenure took a decision not to proceed with regulations to require tamper-resistant formulations.

I want to be clear that certainly Health Canada encourages companies to come forward if they wish to market tamper-resistant formulations, but there is research indicating that you have what's called the “balloon effect”, which is that if we were to force a particular class of medications to require tamper resistance, you'd see people migrate to other drugs that were not tamper-resistant. There's a real research issue as to whether that's an effective strategy for countering the opioid crisis.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Fair enough, then.

9:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Health

Simon Kennedy

The other concern is that with that technology, these particular medications are materially more expensive. They're actually a lot more expensive for patients than the non-tamper-resistant formulations. We would encourage companies to bring those forward, but there's a real policy question as to whether you mandate an entire class of medications to have that technology.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

I'm sure we can have those debates and I'm sure people will have different viewpoints.

If we're throwing up our arms at that, then what about prescribing practices? I don't believe that doctors have changed their prescribing practices. I don't believe that dentists have changed their prescribing practices. Should dentists and doctors be prescribing the amounts and the levels?

As minister, what would you do to address this issue? This is a long-standing issue.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

It's a very good question that you've raised, and it's one that we've addressed as well. Prescription guidelines are in place for doctors at this point in time.

Just this year, actually, we also moved forward with making sure that all information with respect to the risks associated with opioids are also given to patients. In the past, when a prescription of opioids was given to patients, there was really no information with respect to the harms associated and actually the risk of addictions, and—

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Are those guidelines audited? You have guidelines for how and when a doctor should prescribe something. Who audits that to make sure they're complying with them? Are doctors complying with them? I still hear stories from people coming into my office about widely prescribed opioids, Tylenol 3s and everything else.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

We certainly recognize that the practice of medicine is the one that oversees those guidelines, and—

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

I know that.