This August 18, 2017 Global News article (6 minute read), “Health Canada ‘gutting’ law to detect dangerous medicines, with possible deadly consequences, advocates warn”, by Amy Minsky, reveals the slow implementation and eventual disagreeable revision of Vanessa’s Law, a Bill that was passed in November 2014. The law was spearheaded by then-Conservative MP Terence Young, after his 15 year old daughter, Vanessa, died of a heart attack in 2000 after taking a prescribed medication.
Vanessa’s Law was passed to help protect Canadians from harm and death due caused by prescription medications. The law required that all major incidents be reported in order to either flag the issues or recall certain drugs entirely. After holding a series of consultations with industry stakeholders, Health Canada has determined that it is too much trouble to report all adverse drug reactions and that it would be a huge burden on the healthcare system to do so. It appears that Health Canada will now only require the reporting of “serious unexpected incidents” occurring from acute care hospitals and not from clinics, long-term care facilities or other prescribing offices as the original law called for. And rightly so.
In a recent interview Terence Young makes a valid point, “I don’t think they (Health Canada) understand that their primary duty is to protect patients,” he said. “To me, it looks like their primary duty is to keep all the stakeholders happy. But who’s looking after the patients?”
There is a disturbing lack of disclosure in Canada when it comes to harm caused by prescription medications. Minsky reports, “It is widely known, however, that adverse drug reactions are wildly under-reported. A 2015 article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, specifically addressing Vanessa’s Law, stated that less than five per cent of adverse drug reactions in Canada are reported.” Given these new developments it doesn’t appear that things are going to change for the better.
It makes little sense that Health Canada is working to put stricter regulations on NHPs when the real threat to the health and safety of Canadians comes from prescription drugs.
Read the full Global News report and watch the 3 News videos (7 minute watch)