The Toronto Star has recently been conducting some fine investigative work on tainted pharmaceuticals and the fact that Health Canada has been shielding the guilty companies from public scrutiny. The issue finally rose to a degree of national prominence this week when the issue was raised in the House. The 'answers' provided by Health Minister Rona Ambrose, however, were hardly comforting or reassuring. The bolded parts have been added for emphasis:
“Whenever there is a dangerous product identified, Health Canada inspectors act immediately. In the case of a drug produced by Apotex, Health Canada inspectors asked the company to remove it from the shelf and it refused,” Ambrose said in question period this week in response to questions spurred by a recent Star investigation.This somehow reminds me of the boy with the sign on his back that says, Kick Me.
In fact, the Canadian government, unable to force the company to recall the drug, twice asked Apotex to “stop sale and cease imports” from the Bangalore facility, Health Canada spokesman Gary Holub said in response to further questions from the Star.Apparently a believer in the old adage that you can catch more flies (an apt metaphor in this case, given the filthy conditions of Apotex's Bangalore plant) with honey than vinegar, our national health protector changed tacks:
“Although Apotex refused Health Canada’s initial request, it was determined that a more productive course would be to work with the company to quickly determine steps to ensure the safety of its products, over engaging in lengthy court proceedings with no immediate mitigation measures,” Holub said in an email.
Amir Attaran, a University of Ottawa law professor who researches drug policy, called Health Canada’s response “feeble, inadequate and incompetent.”In the house, Ambrose claimed that she needs stronger legislation to act definitively and decisively against the offending companies:
“It will require tough new fines for companies that are putting Canadians at risk. Most importantly, it will give me the authority to recall unsafe drugs when I need to,”This claim of legislative impotence surely rings hollow, and does not explain the fact that Health Canada refuses to publish the names of companies contravening drug safety practices nor the names of the offending drugs.
Professor Attaran succinctly sums up the real problem: “This proves Health Canada is on the side of drug companies and not Canadians”.
I have nothing to add to his assessment.