Evidence of meeting #62 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was antibiotics.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Andrew Morris  Chair, Antimicrobial Stewardship and Resistance Committee, Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada
Karey Shuhendler  Policy Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association
Shelita Dattani  Director, Practice Development and Knowledge Translation, Canadian Pharmacists Association
Michael Routledge  Medical Officer of Health, Southern Health, Regional Health Authority, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
Yoshiko Nakamachi  Antimicrobial Resistance Nursing Expert, Canadian Nurses Association

11 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

I call our meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting number 62 of the health committee. We are going to continue our study on antimicrobial resistance. We have four groups of witnesses today, so we will have four opening statements. They are going to be limited to 10 minutes, and I am going to be very tough today. I hate interrupting people, but I may have to if you go over 10 minutes, because we're tight on time.

I'll introduce our guests. Thank you very much for coming.

Dr. Andrew Morris is chair of the antimicrobial stewardship and resistance committee of the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada. From the Canadian Nurses Association, we have Karey Shuhendler, policy adviser for policy, advocacy, and strategy, and Yoshiko Nakamachi, antimicrobial resistance nursing expert. From the Canadian Pharmacists Association, we have Shelita Dattani, director of practice development and knowledge translation. From the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, we have Dr. Michael Routledge, medical officer of health, Southern Health regional health authority.

We are going to start with the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease. Dr. Morris, you have 10 minutes.

11 a.m.

Dr. Andrew Morris Chair, Antimicrobial Stewardship and Resistance Committee, Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada

Thank you.

Mr. Chair and honourable members, I am honoured to have the privilege and opportunity to present to you on antimicrobial resistance.

I come to you as chair of the antimicrobial stewardship and resistance committee of the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada. We represent the medical specialists in Canada with expertise in antimicrobial resistance: how it develops, how to prevent it, and how to manage it.

I am also a practising academic infectious diseases physician, running the country's oldest and largest antimicrobial stewardship program at Sinai Health System and University Health Network in Toronto.

I want you to know that I became an infectious diseases physician so that I could cure people. Antibiotics are used to cure, miraculously. This book, titled The Clinical Application of Antibiotics: Penicillin, is from 1952. As you can see, it is 700 pages long, and it describes the miracle of penicillin. If we were to revise it today, it would be about 100 pages long, as most of penicillin's utility in medicine has been lost because of resistance. In fact, most doctors today don't even know how to prescribe penicillin.

Antibiotics, to infectious diseases physicians, are like scalpels to surgeons. The only difference is that infectious diseases physicians don't really get the glory; the antibiotics do. That heuristic of reliably curing people with antibiotics ended for me relatively early in my career, about 14 years ago, when I was taking care of a young man—a husband and a father—in Hamilton, Ontario, where I was working at the time. He had a brain infection due to a drug-resistant bacterium. It became resistant because it was repeatedly exposed to the antibiotics he was receiving. I had to use what at the time was relatively experimental therapy. He died, either despite me or because of me.

That event, which was the critical event of what I had seen emerging over the years prior, due to overuse of antimicrobials, has shaped what I do today, and it leads me to what I want to cover with you in the next few minutes.

First, what is antimicrobial resistance? Antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, is basic Darwinian selection. Bacteria in the environment—in humans, animals, birds, or aquaculture—are exposed to antibiotics, and as many of the drug-susceptible bacteria die off, bacteria that have randomly developed a mutation rendering them resistant to the antimicrobials thrive. There are only two things required for antimicrobial resistance to develop: bacteria and antimicrobial use. When the drug-resistant genes in bacteria take hold in a community or a population, the ability to reverse the growth of drug resistance ends up being rather uncertain.

Why should the House Standing Committee on Health and the Canadian public care about AMR? Canadians pride themselves on their health care. They have come to expect safe pregnancy and delivery, including C-sections; neonatal care; management of common infections such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections; routine surgeries such as appendectomy, cardiac surgery, and joint replacement; cancer care; and even organ and stem cell transplantation. These are all threatened by antimicrobial resistance.

For some of these conditions, it is actually a present-day threat, rather than a future one. Up to half of the pathogens causing infections in cancer and surgery are already resistant to first-line antibiotics in the U.S. I would like to quote Canadian data, but we don't really have reliable ones. It is likely comparable.

Whereas untreatable infections were unheard of when I first started practising medicine, physicians like me are already routinely seeing patients for whom we are using novel therapy to treat routine infections. Many antibiotics are rendered so obsolete by drug resistance that manufacturers have stopped producing them and clinicians have stopped learning about them.

When I started practising medicine, the only common AMR acronym in our lexicon was MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staph aureus. Today, that list also includes KPC, ESBL, NDM-1, VRE, and CDI, and the list goes on.

These all cost the health care system billions of dollars. This is juxtaposed with the over $1 billion we spend on prescription antibiotics in Canada, about half of the use of which is unnecessary. More important, it is an overall threat to national security. It threatens Canadians in a manner greater than violence and accidents combined.

AMR doesn't have headlines. When a woman needing a lung transplant recently ran out of effective antibiotic options to keep her alive, the story in the media was on the heroic removal of the infected lungs and keeping her alive, rather than the fact that she had a tipping point of completely drug-resistant infection.

AMR has no walks, runs, bike rides, golf tournaments, or galas. It has no ribbon, and the pharmaceutical industry has either distanced itself from antimicrobial development or fought to prioritize drug innovation over antimicrobial stewardship, or the wise use of antimicrobials.

What is needed to tackle AMR? Almost a year ago today, on June 16 and 17, I co-chaired the national action round table on antimicrobial stewardship, co-hosted by HealthCareCAN and NCCID. That event included 50 thought leaders and stakeholders from across all sectors, some of whom you will hear from today. We came up with a menu of what needs to get done.

For starters, convene and fund a national network to coordinate stewardship, herein known as AMS Canada; nominate executive leads on AMS at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels for strategic planning and implementation; enhance accreditation for AMS; support and scale up core operations in hospital-based AMS; enhance awareness of AMR and AMS among prescribers and public; establish an AMS or antimicrobial stewardship research and development fund; develop and support core datasets in AMU or antimicrobial utilization surveillance; incent community prescribers, using audit and feedback mechanisms; develop national guidelines for antimicrobial prescribing and mechanisms to promote adoption; and finally, develop a network of centres of excellence in knowledge mobilization for AMS.

As I mentioned, that was one year ago, almost to the day, and what has happened? Its the same thing that happened with the 2004 report, “National Action Plan to Address Antibiotic Resistance”, and the 2009 report following pan-Canadian consultation by the since-defunded Canadian Committee for Antibiotic Resistance.

In 13 years, we have had three national reports on antimicrobial resistance, and the collective response from the federal government remains a tacit one. In fact, the Public Health Agency has all but eliminated any anticipated funding towards antimicrobial stewardship and surveillance for the upcoming year. “Suspended” is the term we have been given. This pales in comparison to the United States, which spends over $1 billion annually to combat antimicrobial resistance, with an effort that includes the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, amongst other departments. The United Kingdom has equally provided strong leadership and effort, with their chief medical officer of health, Dame Sally Davies, perhaps the strongest world advocate on the subject.

In Canada, antimicrobial stewardship and resistance research funding is less than $10 million per annum. More has been announced recently, but this compares with CIHR funding of $273 million for cancer or oncology, which has another $95 million from the Ontario cancer institute, $91 million from the Fonds de recherche du Québec—Santé, and numerous other research sources.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that, in Canada, antimicrobial resistance is not being sufficiently addressed. This is reinforced by our own Auditor General who two years ago concluded that the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada “have not fulfilled key responsibilities to mitigate the public health risks posed by the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance in Canada.”

The Auditor General also stated that the Public Health Agency of Canada:

has not determined how it will address the weaknesses it has identified in its collection, analysis, and dissemination of surveillance information on antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial use. The Agency has taken some steps to promote prudent antimicrobial use in humans, such as developing and disseminating guidelines for health professionals, but has identified the need for more guidelines.

Honourable committee members and Mr. Chair, on behalf of AMMI Canada, I stand here to tell you that Canada has been lucky to avoid an antimicrobial resistance catastrophe. I am not a boy crying wolf. There were warning signs around opiates for decades and they only became front of mind when the deaths escalated, researchers started identifying the public health crisis, and civil society took notice. Governments have had to play catch-up ever since.

Today, I represent the voices of Canada's experts on infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance telling you that the current situation and the crisis that we will be facing will be like it is with opioids, only worse. The victims will span all ages. Our health care system will be paralyzed. The costs of ignoring AMR today will be paid many times over in lives lost. When the post-mortem will be done, as it was for the Naylor report following SARS, the country will look to missed opportunities and ignored warning signs. You have an opportunity to heed those warning signs.

Thank you for your attention.

11:10 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you. You pack a lot into 10 minutes. It's most impressive.

We'll move on to the Canadian Nurses Association.


June 15th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.

Karey Shuhendler Policy Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee. My name is Karey Shuhendler. I'm a registered nurse and policy adviser with the Canadian Nurses Association, the national professional voice for over 139,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners in Canada.

I'm pleased to be here with Yoshiko Nakamachi, who is with us today as CNA's antimicrobial resistance nursing expert. She will be able to answer questions that may be more technical in nature. Yoshi currently serves as the antimicrobial stewardship program lead and program manager at the Sinai Health System and University Health Network antimicrobial stewardship program in Toronto. She has also worked with community hospitals to develop antimicrobial stewardship programs, is involved in a multicentre antimicrobial stewardship initiative in primary care, and is a member of provincial, national, and FPT antimicrobial stewardship committees.

At the outset, I'd like to thank the committee for studying this important issue and for giving CNA the opportunity to speak on behalf of registered nurses and nurse practitioners. We have a professional responsibility to advocate for federal action on antimicrobial stewardship, henceforth referred to as AMR, as it is a major threat to the health of people in Canada and is projected to worsen over time if appropriate actions are not taken. As you may know, antimicrobial resistance occurs when an organism, like a bacteria or virus, stops an antimicrobial medication from working against it. This means standard treatments no longer work, and infections can persist and spread to others. AMR leads to increased human illness, suffering, and death; increased costs and length of treatment; and increased side effects from the use of multiple and increasingly powerful medications.

Prior to outlining our two key recommendations and taking your questions, we want to paint a picture of the impact of AMR internationally, as well as providing some national context.

The director general of the WHO has referred to AMR as a “slow moving disaster”, one of the most serious threats to human health and safety. The WHO has also warned that AMR is putting the gains of the millennium development goals at risk and endangering the achievement of sustainable development goals. AMR is an issue that requires action by all areas and disciplines in health.

In its 2017 position statement on AMR, the International Council of Nurses notes:

Nurses and other healthcare workers have a vital role to play in preserving the power of antimicrobial medicines. Nurses play a central role in patient care and interdisciplinary communication and, as such, are in a key position to contribute to reducing AMR and critical for the function of antimicrobial stewardship programmes (ASP).

The statement goes on to point out that nurses contribute to assessment and diagnoses of infections, administer and may prescribe antimicrobials, monitor outcomes and report side effects, provide vaccinations, and educate patients, families, and communities.

At the national level, CNA acknowledges the planning efforts of the federal government to respond to the threat of AMR through the development of the 2014 document “Antimicrobial Resistance and Use in Canada: A Federal Framework for Action”, the 2015 document, “Federal Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance and Use in Canada: Building on the Federal Framework for Action”, and the 2017 draft document, “Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance and Antimicrobial Use: A Pan-Canadian Framework for Action”.

CNA has also been doing its part to combat AMR by contributing to national work on infection prevention and on stewardship. Do Bugs Need Drugs?, a community-based antimicrobial stewardship program in B.C. and Alberta, defines “stewardship” as:

...the practice of minimizing the emergence of antimicrobial resistance by using antibiotics only when necessary and, if needed, by selecting the appropriate antibiotic at the right dose, frequency and duration to optimize outcomes while minimizing adverse effects. The principles of antimicrobial stewardship apply wherever antimicrobial agents are used including hospitals, long term care facilities, community medicine, agriculture and veterinary use, and in the home and community.

CNA's efforts in this area include membership and participation on the antimicrobial stewardship or AMS Canada steering committee, and engaging in the Canadian Roundtable on AMS to develop a Canadian multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral action plan on antimicrobial stewardship.

We are also active participants in the federal-provincial-territorial AMR stewardship task team to develop a pan-Canadian framework and action plan. In addition, through partnering with Choosing Wisely Canada, a national program to engage clinicians and patients in conversations to reduce overuse, CNA has developed a broad list of nursing recommendations to reduce the use of tests, treatments, and interventions that may lack benefit or cause harm. Several of these recommendations advance the AMS agenda, including recommendations to reduce inappropriate or unnecessary use of antimicrobials.

CNA is planning to release a speciality Choosing Wisely nursing list, in partnership with Infection Prevention and Control Canada. This list includes recommendations to reduce the use of interventions that can lead to infection, as well as reducing inappropriate laboratory testing, which can lead to unnecessary use of antimicrobials. It also includes stewardship recommendations focused on reducing inappropriate antimicrobial use.

Despite work done by CNA and other partner organizations across the county, additional effort and investment is required by the federal government to further address antimicrobial use and resistance. Of particular note is the need to emphasize an interprofessional approach to stewardship that includes nurses, in collaboration with physicians, pharmacists, patients, and caregivers, as a cost-effective preventative approach to AMR.

We have two key recommendations to address the issue of AMR in Canada with a focus on stewardship. We encourage the committee to include these recommendations in your final report on this important study.

Our first recommendation encourages the federal government to support the 10 action items on antimicrobial stewardship put forward in HealthCareCAN and the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases document entitled “Putting the Pieces Together: A National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Stewardship”. The 10 items are outlined in CNA's brief, but also nicely summarized by Dr. Morris.

Our second recommendation urges that the federal government commit to providing significant funding over the next five years to support scaling up of antimicrobial stewardship programs across acute care and community-based settings in the provinces and territories, conditional on an accountability framework, and that the federal government support the role of nurses in antimicrobial use, resistance, and stewardship.

Why is funding needed? Historically, education and reform around antimicrobial use and stewardship has been targeted to physicians and pharmacists but not to regulated nurses, who make up the largest group of health care professionals in Canada.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information's report entitled “Regulated Nurses, 2016” and released just last week, there are more than 400,000 regulated nurses in Canada. This number represents over 100,000 licensed practical nurses, approximately 6,000 registered psychiatric nurses, and nearly 300,000 registered nurses, including 5,000 nurse practitioners. Nurses are present in every health setting. They are well positioned to contribute to antimicrobial stewardship, for the preservation of health and the improvement of health outcomes for all people in Canada.

I would like to close with the reminder that antimicrobial resistance is a national and international issue with local implications. Every person in Canada, including those who live in the ridings that each of you represent, is not immune from the evolving threat of AMR. That is why immediate action by the federal government is required.

CNA encourages the Standing Committee on Health to urge the federal government to adopt all 10 expert-developed recommendations in “Putting the Pieces Together: A National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Stewardship” as a key component of addressing antimicrobial use and resistance in Canada.

Furthermore, the federal government can take additional concrete action by investing in established AMS programs with proven results to reduce inappropriate antimicrobial use, and by investing in the education of nurses to leverage their potential as antimicrobial stewardship leaders across all health settings in Canada.

Thank you.

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you very much.

Now we'll go to the Canadian Pharmacists Association, with Ms. Dattani.

11:20 a.m.

Shelita Dattani Director, Practice Development and Knowledge Translation, Canadian Pharmacists Association

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for the opportunity to be here today.

My name is Shelita Dattani, and I am the director of practice development and knowledge translation at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, which is the national voice of Canada's 42,000 pharmacists. I am also a practising hospital and community pharmacist and have significant experience leading and participating in antimicrobial stewardship initiatives in the hospital setting.

Since the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1945, as my colleague described, antibiotics have made an enormous contribution to the treatment of infectious disease, and they have made so many other treatments and procedures, such as surgeries and transplants, possible for us.

It is worth echoing my colleagues here today that AMR has been described as a “slow moving disaster”. As others have said, it is a very serious threat to health and public safety. If left unchallenged, it could lead to 10 million deaths a year by 2050, and with few new antibiotics in current drug development, it's frightening. It's everyone's problem, and everyone must be part of the solution.

I want to talk to you today about antimicrobial stewardship and the role of the pharmacist.

As others have said, stewardship is a team sport, and our collective goal in antimicrobial stewardship is ensuring that patients get the right antibiotics when they need them, and only when they need them. As the medication experts, pharmacists are fundamental to antimicrobial stewardship. Hospital pharmacists throughout this country have demonstrated leadership in antimicrobial stewardship activities and programs for several years now. Just as I spent much of my time in hospital practice ensuring that patients were receiving the right antibiotics, and only if they needed them, I work with my primary care colleagues now to do the same when I practise at the neighbourhood pharmacy. Pharmacists can act as stewards throughout the continuum of care, as other professions can. We work in hospital settings, long-term care settings, primary care teams, public health, and the area that I will predominantly focus on today, which is community pharmacy.

Hospitals and long-term care environments have either established or evolving stewardship programs, but over 80% of antibiotics are prescribed in the community, where few formal antimicrobial stewardship programs currently exist. One large study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that 30% of antibiotic use in non-hospitalized patients is unnecessary.

Antibiotic prescribing in the community is driven by the tendencies of individual prescribers and consumer demand. Community pharmacists have the skills and knowledge to make a real difference. Pharmacists like me, in communities across this country, have established relationships with their patients and their prescriber colleagues. Pharmacists can effect real change in community-based antibiotic prescribing.

There are five key areas in which pharmacists are demonstrating leadership as antimicrobial stewards in the community. These include public education, immunization, prescribing for minor ailments, counselling patients, and optimizing prescribing by other health care providers.

Many Canadians are unaware of the impact and the risks of inappropriate antibiotic use compared with the benefits. Pharmacies are the hubs of their local communities, and pharmacists can play a big role in health promotion and transforming patients into stewards. As others have mentioned, educational campaigns in Canada, such as the community-based education program Do Bugs Need Drugs? and the Choosing Wisely campaign, include antibiotic-related information. Pharmacists have participated in the development of these campaigns. They are developing their own lists for these campaigns, and they are relaying the messages to their patients each and every day in the hubs of their communities.

For several years, Canadians have been able to go to their community pharmacy to get their flu shots. One of the best opportunities I have to talk to my patients about infection prevention, symptomatic management of viral infections, or their hesitancy in getting vaccinated in the first place is during flu shot season. I tell my patients that vaccinations don't just prevent primary infections, but they can also prevent secondary infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, for example, pneumonias that can follow flu infections. I use these opportunities around flu season to talk about the importance of all vaccinations.

Beyond this, pharmacists are also taking on more active, targeted, and patient-specific interventions that you may not be aware of, which include assessment, treatment, and follow-up of their patients. Because pharmacists see their patients on average 14 times a year—sometimes at nine o'clock on a Thursday night, or maybe at 4 p.m. on a Sunday—they are very well placed to provide direct care to patients.

In one province in this country, pharmacists can independently prescribe broadly, and in a few others, can prescribe more specifically for minor ailments like uncomplicated urinary tract infections or strep throat. Pharmacists are guideline-oriented practitioners, and they are very invested, as I mentioned, in campaigns like Choosing Wisely's “More is not always better”. As drug experts, prescribers, and antimicrobial stewards, we pharmacists are very conscious of responsible prescribing—and more importantly, not prescribing if not needed.

In certain provinces, pharmacists can substitute one antibiotic for another. For example, if you come into your pharmacy and you have allergies to the antibiotic prescribed, or if the initial antibiotic prescribed does not resolve your infection, I can substitute a more appropriate antibiotic. I have a relationship with you; I can do that.

These expanded scopes mean that pharmacists have a very direct opportunity to lead in antimicrobial stewardship. There is currently research under way in the province of New Brunswick to capture outcomes in patients assessed and treated by their pharmacists for uncomplicated urinary tract infections.

Pharmacists can also help support their physician colleagues who use delayed prescribing, which is a debatable practice. If a patient gets a prescription from their doctor and is instructed to start antibiotics if symptoms do not improve after a specified time, I can reinforce symptom management with my patient to ensure that we don't jump to antibiotics too quickly. I can counsel my patient on when to follow up with her prescriber. If my patient ends up needing antibiotics, I will talk to her in detail about benefits but also the other things she may not be thinking about, such as the adverse effects and other unintended consequences that have been described here today.

Rapid strep tests are also now offered in some pharmacies. Pharmacists can administer these tests and intervene immediately, either through prescribing or recommending antibiotics or over-the-counter treatments for viral illnesses, as appropriate. Expanding these services would further relieve pressure on the health care system if patients were able to avoid emergency departments or urgent care clinics. A U.K. demonstration study showed that 49% of patients would have sought care from their family doctor if strep tests were not accessible and available in community pharmacies, which are the health care hubs of their communities.

Pharmacists, as evidence-based practitioners, play a huge role in educating prescribers to support them in optimal prescribing for their patients. Pharmacists educate prescribers informally on a regular basis, and they have formal roles where they lead in individual educational outreach.

Pharmacists also have established roles in integrated primary care teams, and they collaborate every day with their colleagues to ensure optimal prescribing of antibiotics through direct and individual feedback on prescribing. This practice has met with much success in the hospital environment.

CPhA participates in the interdisciplinary AMS Canada steering committee and the Canadian Roundtable on AMS. We have demonstrated leadership in increasing the awareness and importance of antimicrobial stewardship for all pharmacists in Canada. We are engaged in continuing to shape the significant role of pharmacists as part of the team in the fight against AMR.

Pharmacists are doing a lot, but we want to do more and we could be doing more to help as primary care providers. We need to have the authority to act to make an more impactful difference. Our skills, scope, and access have enabled us to improve outcomes in chronic disease, and evidence is now building in other areas.

We also need enabling tools to be even more effective antimicrobial stewards. It doesn't make sense to me that a 32-year-old woman in New Brunswick can be treated by a pharmacist for a simple urinary tract infection, but a similar patient in Ontario can't and might have to wait longer to access treatment.

We recommend action in four specific areas. First, and most critically, we recommend that all jurisdictions, including the federal government as a provider of health services, promote harmonization of pharmacists' expanded scope of practice and associated remuneration for these services across the country. This should include prescribing for minor ailments, as well as therapeutic substitution of antibiotics.

Second, the implementation of a fully integrated drug information system and electronic health record in every province and territory would ensure that pharmacists have access to the information they need, such as patients' medication profiles and culture and sensitivity reports, to help us care for patients and work more effectively with our colleagues to ensure safe and effective antibiotic use.

Third, the Canadian Pharmacists Association, through our work with the AMS steering committee, supports the development of national prescribing guidelines. We also commit to leading the development of knowledge mobilization tools and mentorship networks for pharmacists, to ensure they are armed with the most current knowledge and skills to act as antimicrobial stewards in the interests of public safety.

Finally, we recommend that all antibiotic prescriptions include the indication for the medication—why the medication was prescribed to that patient—on the prescription. This information would help us promote optimal and safe antibiotic use, ensuring that the patient receives the correct drug, the correct dose, and the correct duration of therapy for that particular indication.

Every interaction I have with a patient or a prescriber is an opportunity to get my patient the right antibiotic, if needed, and an opportunity for all pharmacists to embrace their role as antimicrobial stewards. We need to continue to work together to solve this problem.

Pharmacists are committed to being a major part of the solution in this shared responsibility of stewardship, and we ask for the committee's support in advancing the role of the pharmacist as antimicrobial steward, as described today.

Thank you very much.

11:25 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you very much.

Now we go to Dr. Michael Routledge from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, for 10 minutes.

11:30 a.m.

Dr. Michael Routledge Medical Officer of Health, Southern Health, Regional Health Authority, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee for examining this very important topic. I'm here on behalf of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, as a Royal College specialist in public health and preventative medicine. The Royal College does not currently have an official position on antimicrobial resistance but fully supports ongoing efforts to address AMR and has asked me to provide my perspective as a specialist physician in public health.

I won't reiterate all that you've already heard on the background with respect to how important a topic this is both in Canada and around the world. I'm going to focus on two specific aspects. One is that, historically, AMR has been underaddressed relative to its potential impacts. Two, going forward, it will be important to continue to support and strengthen the national processes that have been created to ensure AMR is effectively addressed across the country.

Advancing the AMR agenda can be difficult, because even though it is an extremely important and impactful public population health issue, it is one that is slow moving and doesn't tend to grab headlines. You've already heard a couple of witnesses talk about the idea that it's slow moving and referred to often as a slow-moving tsunami. It's easily pushed to the corner of the desk to make way for the urgent health issues of the day.

If AMR can be positioned, going forward, as the critically important issue that it is, and if the national and regional structures that are working on this can continue to be supported and strengthened, we will be able to fully utilize all the knowledge and resources that exist in a way that supports this work across all of Canada.

The recent inclusion by Accreditation Canada of a required organizational practice on antimicrobial stewardship is an excellent example of how embedding AMR into the health care system structures can help advance the agenda. In the regional health authority where I work, we have recently partnered with the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases to develop a pilot project that looks at, among other aspects, supporting health care provider practice and education for the public. This work is being done to meet the new Accreditation Canada ROP, or required organizational practices, in part, and our hope is to continue to grow this work in all aspects of antimicrobial stewardship.

Canada has, and has had in the past, many examples of local pockets of excellent work on antimicrobial resistance, the Do Bugs Need Drugs? program in B.C. and Alberta being one example. What has primarily been lacking is a robust structure that can coordinate, disseminate, and support these leading practices across all health care organizations and professionals in Canada. The creation over the past few years of the 2014 federal framework and the current FPT steering process, combined with the efforts of organizations like HealthCareCAN and the NCCID, have positioned Canada well to take the necessary next steps.

The key going forward will be to ensure these processes are supported and monitored in order to ensure that antimicrobial stewardship is receiving the attention and work it warrants across the country.

Again, I would like to thank the committee for examining this topic, and for inviting the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons to take part.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you very much. Now we'll go to our first round of questions. These are seven-minute rounds.

Ms. Sidhu.

11:30 a.m.


Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, all the presenters. It was great testimony.

My first question is to Ms. Dattani. A 2015 publication of “The Translator”, your organization's health policy publication, said, “ The overall goal of antibiotic stewardship is to maximize patient outcomes while minimizing the unintended consequences of antibiotic use.” It is also noted that pharmacists can be an important partner in preventing the spread of AMR.

Can you explain a little more the role of pharmacists in this process? How can the role be more effective on AMR?

11:30 a.m.

Director, Practice Development and Knowledge Translation, Canadian Pharmacists Association

Shelita Dattani

Thanks for your question.

As I alluded to in my comments, pharmacists are currently engaging in lots of different opportunities, whether it's counselling patients, public health and health promotion, or discussions during immunizations. Pharmacists can definitely have a more impactful role if they're able to actually intervene in patients' therapy, adapt prescriptions, adapt durations of therapy, and prescribe for simple, uncomplicated types of infections.

This is happening in a couple of provinces, but is not consistent throughout the country. It doesn't completely make sense to me, when I have the same knowledge, skills, and judgment as my colleagues in New Brunswick or Alberta, that they are able to exercise this and act as antimicrobial stewards while I can't. Consideration of that—harmonizing practices across the country to enable pharmacists to practise to that expanded scope—is a key solution.

11:30 a.m.


Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Dr. Morris, many AMR reports have emphasized the need for increased support for research and development for new antimicrobial therapies. In your view, what type of research needs to be funded in order to address antimicrobial resistance, both in Canada and globally?

11:30 a.m.

Chair, Antimicrobial Stewardship and Resistance Committee, Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada

Dr. Andrew Morris

Thank you for your question; it's a loaded one.

If we look at the basic elements of research, I think it has to start with an understanding of our current state. We don't really have a very good understanding of our current state in terms of antimicrobial resistance or in terms of antimicrobial use. I think the first efforts would have to be foundational efforts toward ensuring that we have good data.

Changing how we use antibiotics is a complicated task. It's change management. It's akin to having our whole population live a healthy lifestyle. I'm sure you can imagine how difficult that is. It's very similar to trying to get us to use antimicrobials wisely. It requires behavioural change techniques, psychology, infrastructure, and making it easier to do the right thing. All of those things are difficult. At this point in time, I would say that globally, we don't really have a very good understanding of how to do that.

Additionally, because you thankfully emphasized the global issues as well as the local issues, there is a marked difference in needs between high-income countries and low- and middle-income countries. The disparities include access to effective medications, regulation of the medications, and resistance problems.

What I think may be useful in Canada may not apply to other jurisdictions, and vice versa. I'm very supportive of efforts to address global needs and issues. I think those are absolutely necessary. It is unclear to me at this point in time whether those will translate to Canadian processes and needs for research.

11:35 a.m.


Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you.

I want to ask the nurses association something.

In your view, how knowledgeable are Canadians regarding AMR? Also, I heard testimony that $1 billion is being spent on antibiotics in Canada. Last week we heard that 95% of that use is in the community. Do you think we need more public awareness? How can we do more public awareness? What kinds of steps need to be taken?

11:35 a.m.

Policy Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association

Karey Shuhendler

Thank you for your question.

I don't think Canadians are as knowledgeable as they could be about the issues of antimicrobial resistance. Dr. Morris made a comparison to the current opioid crisis. There aren't a lot of public faces to deaths attributed to antibiotic-resistant organisms and the impact those have. There is definitely some room there for Canadians to be more informed.

That comes with stewardship programs like Do Bugs Need Drugs? or Choosing Wisely Canada, which have a public facing component of the campaign. We as health care providers and as a government have a responsibility to provide education to the public so that the public is not presenting to a physician or nurse practitioner or pharmacist to obtain medication that is not warranted. They need to be aware that the absence of a prescription doesn't mean substandard care, but that maybe you're getting better care because your clinician is taking time to do a full assessment to provide the education.

The public needs to be on board with that. They need to be well informed. Campaigns like Do Bugs Need Drugs? and Choosing Wisely Canada have been effective in providing the information that more is not always better, but more definitely needs to be done.

11:35 a.m.

Yoshiko Nakamachi Antimicrobial Resistance Nursing Expert, Canadian Nurses Association

I think also the public awareness campaign and the education need to start for those at a very young age. I think we need to be talking to the kindergarten children, all the way up through the continuum, and through the lifespan and educating individuals and creating that awareness. It doesn't just start with the parent or the elderly person when they're faced with having to deal with a particular infection, but it's the way we socialize our next generation and the generation right now as well. Again, it's about public awareness campaigns that target the spectrum and the range of individuals in our society.

11:35 a.m.


Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Dr. Morris, chicken farming is a major economic contributor. We heard earlier this week about antimicrobial resistance in agriculture. Can you describe the risks that the medical and non-medical use of antibiotics can pose to human health?

11:35 a.m.

Chair, Antimicrobial Stewardship and Resistance Committee, Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada

Dr. Andrew Morris

Some of that is a bit outside the scope of my area of expertise. What I can tell you is that many of the antimicrobials that are used for animals are not of medical interest or significance. With regard to those that are, almost certainly a reduction in use of those antimicrobials will benefit the Canadians population.

We know for sure and there is no question whatsoever that when resistance develops in animals, especially in agriculture but also in companion animals, that resistance eventually makes its way into the human ecosystem as well. That's why I think everyone here and anyone who works in the field has always felt that a one health approach to antimicrobial stewardship and resistance is the best way to tackle it.

11:40 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Time's up.

Ms. Harder, go ahead for seven minutes.

11:40 a.m.


Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

That's awesome.

My first question is for Mr. Morris.

We're talking about antimicrobial resistance. Let's say we do nothing, theoretically, and we leave things as they are and things continue to progress. Paint a picture of what this is going to look like 50 years from now.

11:40 a.m.

Chair, Antimicrobial Stewardship and Resistance Committee, Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada

Dr. Andrew Morris

I'm not sure I'd be too good at predicting 50 years from now. I'm not sure it's even necessary to go 50 years ahead.

Several countries right now don't have availability of certain antibiotics due to production problems. Australia recently had a problem with piperacillin–tazobactam, which is an important broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Having a drug unavailable because of production is, in many ways, similar to not being able to use it because of drug resistance. What ends up happening is that you reach for other drugs, you result in harm, and you get side effects. If you can't use any antibiotics, which is what will almost certainly happen if we do nothing, the complication rates.... For example, I have an artificial hip. The risk of me getting that infected at the time of surgery was somewhere around 1%. Thankfully I got antibiotics at the time of surgery so the risk went from 5% down to 1%.

If we can't use antibiotics for a simple surgery like that, then one in 20 people who are getting hips, rather than one in 100 people who are getting hips, are going to get infections. For Caesarean sections, it's the same thing. The risks are even higher. It's the same with abdominal surgeries. The list goes on.

For transplantation medicine, for solid organ transplantation, the backbone of that is antimicrobials. It requires a very broad team to be involved, but the backbone involves antimicrobials. Supportive care for cancer chemotherapy absolutely requires antimicrobials. If you have leukemia and you're receiving chemotherapy, you are almost certainly going to require broad-spectrum antimicrobials for weeks.

No cancer chemotherapy, no transplantation, no high-risk surgeries, and that's not 50 years from now; that's 15 to 20 years from now at best.

11:40 a.m.


Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you. It's very helpful for us to have that actually painted out really practically.

In 2015, the Auditor General came out with “Report 1—Antimicrobial Resistance”. It noted that another six guidelines were needed, moving forward, as I understand it, for specific antimicrobial-resistant infections. But, as I believe you noted in your testimony, that was put on hold. Those guidelines actually haven't been further developed.

Can you comment on that?

11:40 a.m.

Chair, Antimicrobial Stewardship and Resistance Committee, Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada

Dr. Andrew Morris

I can't specifically. I don't recall the particular guidelines that were mentioned in the Auditor General's report.

Antimicrobial stewardship as an initiative has involved partnership with several people here along with the Public Health Agency of Canada. There was anticipated funding to a variety of organizations and groups around Canada, and that amount was actually really modest. We're talking about a total of probably less than a couple of million dollars at most. All of that has been suspended, to my knowledge.

We basically have the Public Health Agency of Canada saying that antimicrobial stewardship is important but it's not important enough, and that they're going to have to put further funding on hold, and that's going to prevent us from moving forward.

If we're talking about guidelines, I think many experts in the field—and I consider myself one of them—recognize that in order to discuss appropriateness of antibiotic use, you need to have a benchmark. The benchmark in most countries that have done this has been to develop guidelines. We have no national guidelines on how to use antibiotics.

To do that would require Herculean effort and considerable time and cost. It's almost certainly necessary, but I don't see it happening in the next five to six years.

11:45 a.m.


Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Okay. Thank you.

Right now we're in the middle of putting together a pan-Canadian approach. It's supposed to be coming out imminently, we're told. I'm wondering if your organizations have been engaged in this process of creating this framework.

Maybe we'll just work across the panel. What has your engagement been?

11:45 a.m.

Antimicrobial Resistance Nursing Expert, Canadian Nurses Association

Yoshiko Nakamachi

My engagement has been as a member of that task force on stewardship. There were four task forces, for each of the four pillars: infection prevention and control, surveillance, research and innovation, and stewardship. I was engaged in developing and putting together a report for what success would look like, and also what stewardship activities would need to take place in order to move forward.

Again, it's a framework, but specific actions for success moving forward were indicated. The report that our group, the stewardship task force, developed was merged with the reports from the other three task forces to create the pan-Canadian framework document that you're referring to.