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Speaking Notes for the Hon. Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health | Announcement on the Requirement to Report Drug Shortages

Vancouver, BC

February 10, 2015

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Thank you for the introduction and good morning everyone.

It is a pleasure to be here for today’s important announcement and to be joined by my colleague and friend, Wai Young, Member of Parliament for Vancouver South, as well as The Honourable Terry Lake, Minister of Health for British Columbia, Dr. Douglas DuVal, Vice President, Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society, Suzanne Nurse, Chair of the Drug Shortages Committee for the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance and Mary Ackenhusen, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vancouver Coastal Health.

In my travels across Canada I have spoken with medical professionals, provincial and territorial Health Ministers, industry leaders and Canadians about our healthcare system.

The one common message I hear is that we must always put the health and safety of Canadian families first

That means strengthening our efforts to improve patient safety, including the safety of medicines and education for patients.

I also heard loud and clear that when drug shortages occur, patients and those who care for them need timely and accurate information.

We know that drug shortages are a complex global problem with impacts that are felt across the country and the world.

But, nobody feels these impacts more than patients and their families.

This issue puts pressure on the health system as a whole.

Canadians need and deserve, reliable and comprehensive information to help minimize the impact drug shortages can have on their health.

To that end we called on manufacturers to voluntarily post all anticipated and actual drug shortages and discontinuances online as early as possible.

This would allow patients, pharmacists and the healthcare system to respond appropriately.

We worked extensively with healthcare professionals, provincial and territorial governments and industry to advance collaborative work on drug shortages, through the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee on Drug Shortages (MSSC).

And following extensive consultations with Canadians and healthcare professionals, it became clear that Canadians were not getting this essential information in a timely and reliable manner.

That is why today, in order to help ensure the health and safety of Canadians and their families, our Government has decided to move forward with mandatory reporting of actual and anticipated drug shortages.

Drugs like paclitaxel to treat cancer have experienced shortages but have not been voluntarily listed by their manufacturer. Canadians need to know this vital information to better plan for their health and safety.

This crucial information will be made available to Canadians through an independent third party run website will be established where manufacturers will make public information on actual and anticipated drug shortages available.

While the new website and regulations for mandatory reporting are being developed and brought into force, manufacturers will be expected to continue posting shortage information on www.drugshortages.ca. 

As well, today, Health Canada’s website will now have a Public Register that lists manufacturers that fail to voluntarily list their drug shortages.

Let me be clear.  On this Public Register we will name and shame those manufacturers who fail to publicly post information on drug shortages, making industry commitments, and more importantly, industry actions, clear for all to see.

Today’s announcement is only one step of many in ensuring Canadians have the information they need on drug shortages in order to better care for themselves and their families.

As I have said, drug shortages remain a global, complex issue that need us all to work together to find solutions.

Today’s announcement is one of the many initiatives our Government has undertaken to help ensure the health and safety of Canadian families.

We launched the Regulatory Transparency and Openness Framework and Action Plan last year, which lays out a number of initiatives—from posting drug summary safety reviews to launching an online database so that Canadians can more easily find relevant drug facts and information about approved medicines in Canada.

Our financial investments in Canada Health Infoway have built vital links between hospitals, doctors’ offices and community pharmacies, resulting in improved patient access to services and greater productivity and efficiency.

And to help identify potentially dangerous drugs, and ensure the quick recall of unsafe drugs, we passed Vanessa’s Law, historic patient safety legislation which also includes new powers to require the reporting of adverse drug reactions.

As Minister of Health, I want Canadians to be among the healthiest people in the world.

And through the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, our Government is committed to a sustainable healthcare system that helps to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians and their families.

Today’s announcement will help Canadians and their families better plan for their healthcare, leading to healthier and safety Canadian families.

Our Government will continue to put the needs of Canadian families first and make principled decisions to help ensure the health and safety of Canadians and their families.

I want to thank the representatives from industry and health professional associations for joining us today and the Vancouver General Hospital for hosting us.

I would like to thank Russell Williams of Rx and D, and the members who committed in 2011 to timely communications on drug shortage information. Thank you for your commitment to patient safety, and your endorsement of these mandatory measures to keep Canadian patients and healthcare workers informed about their medications. 

Thank you.

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