Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on the private member's bill from my colleague, the member for Battle River—Crowfoot, Bill C-307. This is a bill to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and is intended to save lives.
The intent of this bill is to enable the federal minister of health to require specific controlled substances or class of controlled substances to have “abuse-deterrent formulations” and/or “tamper-resistant properties”. This will make these pharmaceutical substances more difficult to abuse.
Bill C-307 will make it possible for Canada's health minister to take immediate action whenever Canadians are being hurt or killed by a specific drug. We can do something, one thing, to help keep Canadians safe. We can do something when it becomes apparent that there is a deadly narcotic substance available that we no longer want available in its current form because it is dangerous and can be too easily abused. We can do something, by supporting Bill C-307. While this bill can apply to any substance under the two categories of drugs in the health legislation, this bill may in fact only be implemented on rare occasions, and yet it will help Canada's minister of health take swift action to save lives and prevent terrible suffering.
The government does have opposition to Bill C-307. In the previous hour of debate on November 17, 2016, Canadians learned of the Liberal government's initial response to Bill C-307, and we were disappointed. However, we hope that following today's second hour of debate, the Liberal government will agree to support sending this bill to committee for further study and consideration.
I want to address the reasons for opposing Bill C-307 from the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Health. I want to remind everyone that abuse-deterrent and tamper-resistant technologies across the class of opioid medications are only one tool among many others to combat prescription opioid abuse.
Crushing and snorting of these powerful narcotics is often the gateway to other forms of abuse, including pill-popping and the movement to more dangerous illicit substances, such as fentanyl, carfentanil, W-18 and U-47700, especially for young Canadians. I am hopeful that we would do everything in our power to stem this tide.
Would all drugs be required to be tamper resistant? No, this bill will not result in only tamper-resistant drugs being available in the Canadian market. This is precisely the point. The United States is leading the way and moving forward to provide Americans with many drugs in a tamper-resistant form. This movement is supported by the Federal Food and Drug Administration, the DEA, and the Trump administration. Seven medications with tamper-resistant or abuse-deterrent formulations, with more to come, are now approved in America.
The parliamentary secretary did not report much of the growing body of evidence to this House in her speech during the first hour of debate. The speech she delivered did include references to a selective literature review on the benefits and risks of abuse-deterrent formulation, tamper-resistant medications.
The recently concluded health committee hearings and the opioids conference did not hear from all stakeholders, including actual pain patients taking these abuse-deterrent formulation, tamper-resistant medications; representatives from the industrial producers of abuse-deterrent formulation, tamper-resistant medications; nor any international and independent experts in the field of abuse deterrence. There is more consultation needed by the government. In fact, the health minister's public statements often acknowledge the value of wide consultation, and it is one of the orders in her mandate letter from the Prime Minister.
The government's opposition to Bill C-307 expressed by the parliamentary secretary did not follow another instruction to the Minister of Health in her mandate letter from the Prime Minister. That directive asks the minister to provide Canadians with science and evidence-based approaches to inform public policy. There is strong scientific confirmation of tamper-resistance technology and abuse-deterrent formulations. There are no maybes or guesswork about these technologies. They work. Tamper-resistance and abuse-deterrent formulation technology is here to stay. It is sound science. It is the future.
Increasingly, powerful medications will be available in the protected forms contained in Bill C-307. Someday, all powerful medications will be released to the public in these forms. These technologies are a product of the scientific advances of the western pharmaceutical technology. Doctors want to prescribe to their patients medications that will not harm them. Doctors want to prescribe to their patients medications that patients cannot hurt themselves with, even if they try.
Patients want their doctors to prescribe them medications that will not hurt them, even if they make a mistake while trying to follow the instructions on the prescription. Everyone wants prescriptive medications that cannot be cut up, crushed, and sold as drugs to be abused.
We can do this now. The technology does exist. We can protect ourselves and others right now. Someday our society will be able to protect our population from the risks and the harmful effects of strong medications that are being abused. This technology will be widespread and used on virtually all potentially harmful medications.
Bill C-307 proposes to provide our Minister of Health with the power to name a single substance and declare it unavailable to Canadians unless and until it is in a tamper-resistant or abuse-deterrent formulation. This would save lives every time that we find a particular substance is being abused with deadly results. The health minister could invoke this tool immediately and stop the loss of lives and terrible suffering at any time.
We have seen numerous drugs, one at a time it seems, being the latest drug of choice to abuse. Some of them are producing deadly results in large numbers. With the passage of Bill C-307, we could stop any of the newest drugs from being available for abuse. We could demand that they are are only made available in a tamper-resistant or abuse-deterrent formulation.
There is a question of costs, and the concerns about the possible increase in costs for public and private payers of medications with abuse-deterrent and tamper-resistant formulations have been addressed. The introduction of these products in the United States and Canada has been shown to drive down prescription volumes for these medicines. The result is that the costs remain the same, not higher.
Again, the parliamentary secretary did not provide us with the evidence of this fact; she reported that her government continues to be concerned about costs. However, the cost issue has been addressed, with evidence. There needs to be more up-to-date research on the facts and figures concerning the deployment of medications with both abuse-deterrent and/or tamper-resistant properties.
The federal government and the provinces have every cost-containment tool at their disposal today to rein in drug costs. The highly successful pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance is a very effective alliance that operates to set the best prices for public pharmaceutical plans. In turn, the work of the alliance also affects, and sometimes dictates, the prices in private plans. This system ensures that patients are getting medicines at affordable levels.
The provinces and territories have the power of bulk buying. There are numerous examples of medications available at reasonable costs and even lower costs following negotiations between governments and producers. The pharmaceutical firms can employ scale pricing if they know they will realize specific large numbers of sales over specific time frames. This common marketplace practice accommodates the costs to the consumer and makes abuse-deterrent and tamper-resistant medications available and affordable.
I remind all members of the House that every single opioid molecule known to medical science is already off patent. Regulations designed in the previous Parliament make it clear that any company can bring in a competing technology to any abuse-deterrent medication.
I am reminded frequently of the use of the term that we do not need 99 reasons for why we cannot do something, we only need one reason for why we can. This is one reason for why we can work to save lives across this country, by adopting Bill C-307.