That, in the opinion of the House, the government, in concert with provincial and territorial partners, should develop a National Strategy for Innovation, Effectiveness and Cost-effectiveness in Sustainable Health Care that: (a) establishes regional centers for collaborative research and experimentation with innovative models that (i) focus on effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, (ii) are collaborative and interdisciplinary in character, (iii) team up integrative medicine with allied professions, (iv) utilize optimized information technology to document outcomes, (v) foster competition for better health care outcomes that are both effective and cost-effective; (b) is holistic in perspective and open to new models of care, delivery and discovery; (c) is patient-centered and emphasizes the importance of self-care, wellness promotion and disease prevention; (d) empowers the patient with information and choice; (e) creates financial incentives for innovation; and (f) promotes a “culture of innovation” throughout the healthcare system.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise today to introduce and discuss for the first hour of debate Motion No. 501. It is a national strategy for innovation, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness for sustainable health care.
Accelerating health care costs threaten not only the sustainability of the health care system, but they imperil the future competitiveness of the Canadian economy. If we want to develop a high-impact, sustainable health care system that leads the world it is imperative that we consider every avenue of promising intervention.
There are clinical efficiencies that exist but are underutilized, or they face institutional barriers in implementation. We have the capacity to overcome these challenges and release billions of dollars into our economy while improving clinical outcomes, and patient and clinician satisfaction.
Recognizing the constitutional divisions and powers that make addressing health care innovation a vexing challenge, Motion No. 501 calls for collaboration with provincial-territorial partners and it is crafted to empower the “outside the box” clinicians in the medical world.
Just three weeks ago, I was in Toronto with about 200 doctors from around the world who had gathered to look at what else works. It is an international society for orthomolecular medicine. These people are in every province, across the country, across the U.S. and around the world, looking at how we can get better clinical outcomes by using means and approaches that are less toxic to the body and get better clinical outcomes. Their approach is collaborative. It is interdisciplinary. It is driven by a passion for superior clinical outcomes, for patient empowerment, for self-care and choice. Self-care is the foundation of health care. We have many such clinicians across Canada. They are self-described as functional medicine, integrative medicine or orthomolecular physicians.
What does orthomolecular mean? It was a term coined by Linus Pauling, the only man to get two Nobel prizes in the history of the world. One was in science and the other was a peace prize. It just means using molecules in their natural state, as opposed to patented medicine, where they take a molecule but in order to control the molecule for its role in the body they have to change it somehow. I often describe it as like having someone analyze a football team and deciding that it is the quarterback that makes that team hum. However, they cannot use the quarterback in his natural state so they have to take his head off, tuck it under his arm and then send him out to play without the rest of the team. Actually, in nature, a lot of these molecules work in synergy with other compounds that are found in natural sources.
Therefore, they like to use natural molecules. They are using the foundational tools, such as thorough case history, physical, laboratory and technical diagnostic aids, but they prefer an applied biochemical approach, using natural molecules rather than patented medicines.
Patented medicines are not as good a fit because they have been modified. They have been hydrogenated, carboxylated or methylated to make them patentable. They are very much like the natural molecule, but they are not as good a fit. They are therefore xenobiotic or foreign to biological processes and many of them end up blocking other metabolic pathways in the body, therefore leading to side effects that are unhelpful.
Natural molecules are common in biological systems. They are generally well tolerated and low risk. When they are applied intelligently they are highly effective for a wide range of clinical presentations.
The strategy calls for, in collaboration with provinces and territories, setting up centres where we can look at what else works. I want to give examples of how this is already being done across the country and how it could release funds and get better clinical outcomes for Canadians.
The focus needs to be on both effectiveness and cost-effectiveness because we could have a treatment that is effective but so expensive it is very difficult for the public purse to pay for those treatments. That creates strain on the system. It needs to be collaborative and interdisciplinary, because apparently we do not know everything about the body. It is like saying we know everything about the universe. Apparently we are still learning.
It teams up integrated medicine with allied professions like naturopaths and chiropractors for mechanical, spinal and joint dysfunction. It fosters competition for better health care outcomes that are both effective and cost-effective.
We could have regional centres taking a small amount of federal investment along with a provincial investment to look at what else works and then reward the ones that are getting demonstrated outcomes. I will give examples in a moment of what some look like.
We need to empower the patient with both information and choice because sometimes a great treatment is offered, but there are institutional barriers to that being implemented because the patients are either not offered choice or people are standing in the way who do not want to see competitive therapies advanced.
I will give an example. In May 2014, the School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, sponsored a vitamin D forum in Ottawa. It brought many lead experts to the Chateau Laurier: Dr. Heaney from Nebraska, Dr. Holick from Boston, Dr. Vieth from Toronto and others. A few MPs from the health committee attended. Their purpose was to meet with Health Canada officials about cost savings and the benefits of increasing blood levels of vitamin D3 for Canadians.
Canadians are not getting enough vitamin D. Why? It is the sunshine vitamin, but for eight months of the year the sun is too low in the sky, the atmosphere filters out the UV light that is necessary for skin to produce vitamin D and then for most of the time, our skin is covered. In the wintertime our faces and hands might be exposed a little, but we have 80 to 100 trillion cells in our body that all have receptors for vitamin D and the face cannot produce enough for our whole body.
Experts say that we need to get our blood levels up to about 100 to 150 nanomoles per litre for optimal health effect. Beyond bone health, it is about reducing cancer risk. It is about reducing heart disease. It is about reducing diabetes. It is about getting better mental health outcomes. It is about reducing pre-term births that cost the system an immense amount of money and put the babies born prematurely at risk. A whole range, almost any disease we could be name, is easier to manage if vitamin D levels are up.
Published literature indicates that we could save $14 billion a year just in breast and colorectal cancer alone. That is in the medical literature from the results of two major studies. Reductions in heart disease, diabetes, improvements in mental health and the cost benefits are immense. Why would Canada not move quickly to implement these kinds of cost savings?
Recently published research by Dr. Paul Veugelers and Dr. John Ekwaru, who re-examined the raw data that the Institute of Medicine in the U.S. used to determine what vitamin D3 amounts Health Canada adopted, found a huge statistical error in the analysis. The researchers wondered how it was possible that the levels recommended were low. Were they off by 10%, 20%, 50% or even 100%. No. According to the recent statistical re-analysis, they were off by a factor of 10, meaning the recommended levels were only about one-tenth of what people needed for optimal health care. Correcting this error could result in immense health care savings.
In Vancouver, Dr. Hal Gunn and his team at InspireHealth have been getting superior results with cancer patients, although the oncologists are treating the patients the same as other patients. However, their approach is to take the fear out of cancer treatment. They give nutritional instruction and advice to the patients. They emphasize the importance of exercise. They optimize the vitamin D levels. Everything works better when vitamin D are levels are up. They do things like yoga, stress management, explain what goes in bodies and empower patients with information and choice.
The province of B.C. has taken notice. The BC Cancer Agency has taken note and the province has expanded opportunities, but there are still barriers to optimizing and accelerating the potential in this approach.
There are new cancer drugs on the horizon that are about helping tumour cells trigger impaired immuno-defence or programmed cell death, or apoptosis. These new treatments are on the horizon. Scientists have spent nearly a decade trying to find ways. Programmed cell death is an amazing internal controlled demolition that cells go through. It is estimated one million cells a second go through programmed cell death if they have been hijacked by a virus, if they are a broken down components or they do not functioning properly, or they are unnecessary for what is going on in that particular tissue, without damaging neighbouring cells. However, these new treatments are entry level $10,000 a month. That would be $120,000 to $140,000 a year. The public system is going to come under enormous pressure to provide cutting-edge treatment.
Cancer cells have lost the ability to go through this programmed cell death, which means something has programmed the cell to interrupt that cycle, or has changed the program.
I can point members to literature from the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a prestigious journal in the United States, going back to 2005, where it talks about an intravenous treatment that will do exactly that. It will reinitiate apoptosis, or programmed cell death, by simply using intravenous vitamin C.
There are naturopaths and integrative medical doctors across the country doing these treatments. I know that the integrative cancer clinic here in Ottawa is looking at new models. It is a great program that is being worked on there.
However, there are barriers to these treatments being applied, even though they are far more cost-effective. We need to look at everything that shows promise and remove barriers to looking at more cost-effective treatments.
This treatment could be offered in any remote community. It is a simple intravenous treatment. Ascorbic acid is the agent that is administered. Linus Pauling was saying it more than 40 years ago. It actually introduces cell death.
We know that the mechanism of cell death happens through the production of hydrogen peroxide in the interstitial area of the tumour, and the cells proceed with programmed cell death. Unfortunately, some people have tried to apply this, but there have been barriers, such as oncologists not approving the treatments unless they have exhausted chemotherapy and radiation. Providing patients with choice is about giving them informed consent and allowing them to try a small “c” conservative treatment. When their immune systems have not been damaged by the unfortunate side effects of conventional treatment, the outcomes might be far superior.
C. difficile infections claim thousands of lives annually in U.S. and Canadian hospitals. The rise of these infections is linked to gastric acid-suppressing drugs and antibiotics. Health Canada recently approved a preventative natural health product called Bio-K+, which rebuilds the microbiome devastated by antibiotics. If a person has a lung infection and doctors want to give antibiotics, a nasty side effect is that all of the healthy bacteria in the colon are killed. That sets the stage for a C. difficile infection, which kills somewhere around 1,400 Canadians a year. In the United States, the new figures look like double that, so it may well be higher in Canada as well. All of this may lead to an unnecessary bowel surgery.
There is a hospital in the Montreal area that has been doing this for nine years, by simply giving a potent probiotic of 50 billion CFU twice a day. It has nearly eliminated all C. difficile infections, and created a high reduction in other antibiotic-associated diarrheas that cause extended hospital stays, hundreds of millions of dollars in extended health costs, and put Canadians at risk.
After 25 years of experimenting with acid-suppressing drugs, there is a 40% to 275% increase in the risk of C. difficile. I have been raising that issue for more than 10 years with Health Canada officials. I had press releases about this after the Drug Safety and Effectiveness Network reviewed the issue. With the support of the health minister and the Prime Minister's Office, it took it on as one of its first projects, and basically came back reporting what I had been saying for 10 years. It is a dose-response fashion. There is a 40% to 275% increased risk, and it is a class effect.
I am pleased to see that the Canadian Medical Association Journal wrote it up about a year ago. I was also pleased to see that the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology, under the Choosing Wisely Canada program of the CMA, has recommended eliminating the use, and the shortest possible use, of these antibiotics.
In Alberta, we have a program called Pure North S'Energy, which puts about $200 million into health care in Alberta. It is an innovative program that takes a lot of homeless people, high-needs people, first nations, Inuit, and other citizens, and gives them the vitamins and minerals they need. It has about 100 doctors, nurses, and naturopaths working on the program. From the outcomes, it estimates that it has saved an immense amount of money for the Alberta health care system.
Here is an article by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, which was published in January, called “Bending the Medicare Cost Curve in 12 Months or Less: How Preventative Health Care can Yield Significant Near-Term Savings for Acute Care in Alberta”. It talks about this study with the Pure North S'Energy Foundation's preventative health care program. It found that the sorts of preventative health care services offered by Pure North S'Energy can lead to genuine and significant near-term costs savings for Canada's single-payer health system.
Participants in the first year of the program required 25% fewer hospital visits and 17% fewer emergency room visits compared to the control group. When those persisted for a full year, they had 45% fewer hospital visits in the year after joining and 28% fewer emergency room visits compared to the control group. That is an immense cost saving to the health care system. The cost is about $500 per participant, and they estimated that they save about $1,700 per person in Alberta. If everybody had access to a program like this, it would obviate the need for two hospitals the size of Calgary's Foothills Medical Centre and release about 1,600 beds to be used for other purposes.
That is what Motion No. 501 is about. It is about empowering people who are looking for better answers. I hope all members will support the motion.