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CMA submission to the study of Bill C-37

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13617
Date
2017-04-06
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2017-04-06
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) provides this brief for consideration as part of the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs’ study of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.1 1 Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts. Retrieved from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId=8769825 2 British Columbia Coroners Service. Coroners Report. Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in BC: January 1, 2007 – February 28, 2017. Retrieved from: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/death-investigation/statistical/illicit-drug.pdf 3 Health Canada “Government of Canada announces new comprehensive drug strategy supported by proposed legislative changes”. News release. December 12, 2016. Retrieved from: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1168519 4 Health Canada “Government of Canada announces new comprehensive drug strategy supported by proposed legislative changes”. News release. December 12, 2016. Retrieved from: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1168519 The CMA is deeply concerned with the opioid crisis in Canada, with unprecedented levels of harms, including overdose deaths. The crisis is taking a toll on individuals, families and communities, as well as first responders and health professionals at the front lines. The most recent BC Coroner’s Report indicates there were about 3.6 illicit drug overdose deaths per day in February 2017, an increase of 72.9% over the number of deaths in February of last year.2 Other provinces are also facing critical situations. The CMA welcomes the introduction of Bill C-37, proposed by the Minister of Health to address various portions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), among other changes. * We are particularly appreciative, given that this is part of a new federal strategy that promises to “replace the existing National Anti-Drug Strategy with a more balanced approach (…) and restores harm reduction as a core pillar of Canada’s drug policy, alongside prevention, treatment and enforcement and supports all pillars with a strong evidence base.3 This is necessary to ensure a public health approach to drug use and addiction. * For further discussion of CMA’s position on addiction, harm reduction and supervised consumption sites, as well as terminology, such as supervised consumption sites or supervised injection sites, see CMA’s submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Bill C-2 An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Respect for Communities Act). May 14, 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/submissions/cma-brief-c2-respect-for-communities-act-senate-committee-may-14-2015-english.pdf This proposed legislation includes various objectives, including “to prohibit the unregistered import of pill presses, and remove the exception currently placed on border officers to only open mail weighing more than 30 grams,” (…) to “make it a crime to possess or transport anything intended to be used to produce controlled substances, allow for temporary scheduling of new psychoactive substances, and support faster and safer disposal of seized chemicals and other dangerous substances.”4 CMA is supportive of actions by the federal government that advance the work at national, provincial and local levels to address the opioid crisis. Application for a Supervised Consumption Site The objective of Bill C-37 that CMA would like to provide recommendations for is the one that seeks to “simplify the process of applying for an exemption that would allow certain activities to take place at a supervised consumption site, as well as the process of applying for subsequent exemptions.5 5 Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts. Legislative Summary. Retrieved from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?billId=8689350&Language=E&Mode=1&View=8 6 Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8056955&Language=E&Mode=1&File=24#1 7 Bill C-2 An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Respect for Communities Act). CMA submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. May 14, 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/submissions/cma-brief-c2-respect-for-communities-act-senate-committee-may-14-2015-english.pdf 8 Supreme Court of Canada (2011) Canada (A.G.) v. PHS Comm. Serv. Soc. Retrieved from: http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/7960/index.do 9 Supreme Court of Canada (2011) Canada (A.G.) v. PHS Comm. Serv. Soc. supra. p.192-3 10 Vancouver Coastal Health. News release. Further overdose response action to include BC Mobile Medical Unit and new overdose prevention sites. December 8, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/news-releases/further-overdose-response-action-to-include-bc-mobile-medical-unit-and-new-overdose-prevention-sites 11 CTV. ‘Pop–up’ injection sites aim to combat overdoses in Vancouver. November 20, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/pop-up-injection-sites-aim-to-combat-overdoses-in-vancouver-1.3169397 12 Woo, A. & Perreaux, L. Health Canada approves three supervised consumption sites for Montreal. Globe and Mail. February 6, 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/federal-government-approves-three-supervised-injection-sites-in-montreal/article33914459/ 13 Supreme Court of Canada (2011) Canada (A.G.) v. PHS Comm. Serv. Soc. supra. p.192-3 14 Bill C-2 An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Respect for Communities Act). CMA submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. May 14, 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/submissions/cma-brief-c2-respect-for-communities-act-senate-committee-may-14-2015-english.pdf 15 Schatz, E. & Nougier, M. (2012) Drug consumption rooms: evidence and practice. International Drug Policy Consortium Briefing Paper. (p.20) Retrieved from: http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/17898/1/IDPC-Briefing-Paper_Drug-consumption-rooms.pdf 16 Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8056955&Language=E&Mode=1&File=24#1 The Bill proposes to repeal the 26 requirements to apply for an exemption to the CDSA, in Section 56.1, established by the Respect for Communities Act (former Bill C-26). The CMA supports the repeal, as we have repeatedly called for the withdrawal of the amendments made by former Bill C-2, and their replacement with “legislation that recognizes the unequivocal evidence of benefits of supervised consumption sites, that was accepted by the Supreme Court. Legislation would enhance access to health services, which include prevention, harm reduction and treatment services in communities where the evidence has shown they would benefit from such health services.”7 Bill C-37 proposes to replace those 26 requirements with the five elements cited in the 2011 Supreme Court of Canada unanimous ruling on Insite8, Vancouver’s supervised injection site. These elements are, “evidence, if any, on: . the impact of such a facility on crime rates, . the local conditions indicating a need for such a supervised injection site, . the regulatory structure in place to support the facility, . the resources available to support its maintenance and . expressions of community support or opposition.”9 These elements are proposed to reduce the unnecessary obstacles and burdens on local health departments and community organizations that would deter the creation of new supervised consumption sites, even when the health and safety benefits have been clearly established. Because of this cumbersome process, the BC Ministry of Health recently authorized the creation of “overdose prevention sites” in various locations where there are concerning numbers of overdose deaths, while the ministry “wait(s) for Health Canada approval of supervised consumption services”.10 This was after the creation of unsanctioned popup sites by community groups in the downtown eastside.11 Only Insite and the Dr Peter Centre operate with approved exemptions to date, with Montreal having recently received approval for three sites.12 Many other applications have been submitted for sites in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto and Ottawa, and others are in preparation. Although a welcome reduction to only five elements, the CMA believes that these elements require more clarity, as they can be subject to interpretation, and undue influence, and could still demand unnecessary and significant time and resources on the part of provincial and local agencies. As well, the present crisis would require an expedited process that would not delay local responses to the crisis. Hence, our first recommendation is that there be provisions for an expedited review, at the request of provincial or territorial ministries of health, for situations in which there is an immediate need for such sites. Further, CMA recommends that the elements required for an application for opening a supervised consumption site proposed in Bill C-37 be more clearly defined and simplified in order not to require unnecessary and extensive resources and funding by local public health authorities and community agencies. The central element to be considered is that of “the local conditions indicating a need for such a supervised injection site”. Local health authorities and community organizations struggle with the issues related to drug use, including rising rates of infections, overdoses and deaths, and this is the fundamental reason to open a supervised consumption site. The regulatory structure and the resources available to support a supervised consumption site’s maintenance are issues that local health authorities deal with regularly for any health service, given the need to provide care with reduced risk of liability. The impact of a facility on crime rates is difficult to quantify before such a site is created. Further, the government must consider the experience of the many sites both in Canada and internationally, where law and order have improved in the areas surrounding those sites. The Supreme Court stated that there has been “no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its [Insite’s] eight years of operation.”13 As well, the crime rate is not only influenced by the existence or not of a site, but by many other factors, such as unemployment and enforcement resources. A site would necessarily be located where there are high rates of drug use, for the very purpose of offering people who use drugs much needed harm reduction and support services. The last element, expressions of community support or opposition, should not represent a burden to applicants. As stated in our brief on Bill C-2, “although public opinion might initially be against the introduction of such facilities, public acceptance of supervised consumption sites is considerably high in most of the locations where they have been established, in both Vancouver sites and in European countries.”14 Communities, neighbourhoods and local authorities are usually involved in the good functioning of the facilities through cooperation and communication.15 Bill C-2 is an example of how this element could be interpreted. There was an extensive list of letters of opinion required, including from representatives of local police and local and provincial governments (ministers of health and public safety), chief public health officer, professional licensing authorities for physicians and for nurses, as well as reports from community consultations.16 Such a requirement represented a cumbersome and unnecessary burden. The CMA looks forward to continued collaboration with the federal government and other organizations in the development of further action as part of the much needed comprehensive approach to address the opioid crisis. Recommendations 1. The CMA recommends that there be provisions for an expedited review, at the request of provincial or territorial ministries of health, for situations in which there is an immediate need for such sites. 2. The CMA recommends that the elements required for an exemption application to the CDSA to open a supervised consumption site, proposed in Bill C-37, be clearly defined and simplified in order not to require unnecessary and extensive resources and funding by local public health authorities and community agencies. Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts. Retrieved from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId=8769825 2 British Columbia Coroners Service. Coroners Report. Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in BC: January 1, 2007 – February 28, 2017. Retrieved from: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/death-investigation/statistical/illicit-drug.pdf 3 Health Canada “Government of Canada announces new comprehensive drug strategy supported by proposed legislative changes”. News release. December 12, 2016. Retrieved from: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1168519 4 Health Canada “Government of Canada announces new comprehensive drug strategy supported by proposed legislative changes”. News release. December 12, 2016. Retrieved from: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1168519 7 5 Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts. Legislative Summary. Retrieved from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?billId=8689350&Language=E&Mode=1&View=8 6 Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8056955&Language=E&Mode=1&File=24#1 7 Bill C-2 An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Respect for Communities Act). CMA submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. May 14, 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/submissions/cma-brief-c2-respect-for-communities-act-senate-committee-may-14-2015-english.pdf 8 Supreme Court of Canada (2011) Canada (A.G.) v. PHS Comm. Serv. Soc. Retrieved from: http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/7960/index.do 9 Supreme Court of Canada (2011) Canada (A.G.) v. PHS Comm. Serv. Soc. supra. p.192-3 10 Vancouver Coastal Health. News release. Further overdose response action to include BC Mobile Medical Unit and new overdose prevention sites. December 8, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/news-releases/further-overdose-response-action-to-include-bc-mobile-medical-unit-and-new-overdose-prevention-sites 11 CTV. ‘Pop–up’ injection sites aim to combat overdoses in Vancouver. November 20, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/pop-up-injection-sites-aim-to-combat-overdoses-in-vancouver-1.3169397 12 Woo, A. & Perreaux, L. Health Canada approves three supervised consumption sites for Montreal. Globe and Mail. February 6, 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/federal-government-approves-three-supervised-injection-sites-in-montreal/article33914459/ 13 Supreme Court of Canada (2011) Canada (A.G.) v. PHS Comm. Serv. Soc. supra. p.192-3 14 Bill C-2 An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Respect for Communities Act). CMA submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. May 14, 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/submissions/cma-brief-c2-respect-for-communities-act-senate-committee-may-14-2015-english.pdf 15 Schatz, E. & Nougier, M. (2012) Drug consumption rooms: evidence and practice. International Drug Policy Consortium Briefing Paper. (p.20) Retrieved from: http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/17898/1/IDPC-Briefing-Paper_Drug-consumption-rooms.pdf 16 Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8056955&Language=E&Mode=1&File=24#1
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CMA's Submission to the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology as part of its study on prescription pharmaceuticals: Federal levers to address unintended consequences of prescription pharmaceuticals and support public health, quality care, and patient safety

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11125
Date
2014-03-26
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2014-03-26
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to present this submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for consideration as part of its study on prescription pharmaceuticals in Canada. In this phase, the Committee is studying the unintended consequences of pharmaceuticals, and witnesses to date have identified a broad range of such consequences. In recognition of the important role of prescription medication in patient care, the CMA has developed an extensive body of policy on pharmaceutical medication and prescribing-related issues, some of which we have shared with this Committee on previous occasions. Physicians are concerned that all Canadians have access to medically-necessary medication that is safe, effective, affordable, appropriately prescribed and administered, and part of a comprehensive, patient-centered health care and treatment plan. In this brief, the CMA identifies and discusses five issues that are unintended consequences of prescription pharmaceuticals related to public health, quality care and patient safety. These are: addressing shortages in the supply of prescription pharmaceuticals; addressing the abuse and misuse of prescription medication; improved post-market surveillance and reporting tools; supporting optimal prescribing; and, addressing gaps in insurance coverage. 1) Addressing shortages in the supply of prescription medication Over the past few years Canada's doctors have become deeply concerned about the persistent shortages of prescription medication. Drug shortages have serious consequences for patient care. For example, if a patient on long-term therapy has been stabilized on a drug which becomes unavailable, and is switched to another drug that produces poorer results, this can lead to a decline in health status. The cost of the substitute medication might be beyond a patient's financial capacity. In some cases a therapeutic alternative may not be available at all. The CMA has participated on a Multi Stakeholder Working Group on Drug Shortages, with Health Canada, the pharmaceutical industry and health professional organizations, to establish a Canadian drug shortage reporting website. Although a drug shortage reporting website has been established, there is significant room for improvement. While this website may provide information on products in shortage, it is not clear that all shortages are reported, no mechanism for redress is identified, and most importantly drug shortages are persisting. The CMA supports an investigation into the underlying causes of prescription drug shortages in Canada. One frequently cited reason for shortages is product manufacturing disruptions, such as the 2011 production stoppage at a Sandoz facility in Quebec which resulted in a scramble to find alternate sources of many essential medications. Such disruptions are of particular concern when the drugs in question have been "single sourced" due to government bulk purchasing policies, and no clear substitutes are available. Therefore, the CMA supports the development of strategies at the provincial/territorial and federal level to discourage single source purchasing decisions. The CMA continues to call on governments and manufacturers to take meaningful action to address the impacts of shortages includingdeveloping appropriate mitigation strategies to reduce the number of drug shortages in Canada and their impact on patient health and patient care. To support this goal, the CMA recommends that the Committee extend its study on prescription pharmaceuticals to explore the root causes of shortages in the supply of prescription medication in Canada and strategies to mitigate the impacts on patients and patient care. 2) Addressing the misuse and abuse of prescription medication The use of prescription opioid pain relievers is on the rise, in Canada and internationally. Latest reports indicate that Canada has the second highest per capita consumption of prescription opioids in the world, after the United States. The misuse and abuse of prescription medication is a serious problem and because of its complexity, requires a complex and multifaceted solution. Canada's physicians are concerned about the abuse and misuse of prescription medication for a number of reasons. For one, physicians need to assess the condition of patients who request the medication, and consider whether the use is clinically indicated and whether the benefits outweigh the risks. This can be challenging as there is no objective test for assessing pain, and therefore the prescription of opioids rests to a great extent on mutual trust between the physician and the patient. For another, physicians may need to prescribe treatment for patients who become addicted to the medications. Finally, they are vulnerable to patients who forge their signatures or use other illegal means to obtain prescriptions, or who present with fraudulent symptoms, or plead or threaten when denied the drugs they have requested. Opioid prescription pharmaceuticals are legal products intended for legitimate therapeutic purposes, such as pain management or palliative and end-of-life care. However, they may also be used for recreational purposes or to feed an addiction. It must be recognized that it is addiction which drives the drugs' illegal acquisition through means such as doctor-shopping, forging prescribers' signatures, or buying from street dealers or the Internet. The CMA recommends that the federal government work with provincial/territorial governments and other stakeholders to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy to address the problem of prescription drug misuse and abuse in Canada. Such a strategy should include: a) Programs to prevent misuse: The aim of prevention programs should be to reduce both recreational use and inappropriate therapeutic use. Awareness programs and social marketing campaigns could include: * Information on the benefits and harms of prescription drug misuse, and signs of abuse, addiction or overdose; * Instructions regarding safe storage and disposal. This is important since young recreational users frequently report that they obtain drugs from the family medicine cabinet. CMA supports national prescription drug "take back" days, and recommends that patients be educated about the importance of returning unused prescription drugs to the pharmacy. b) Measures to reduce the risk of overdose: Overdose deaths due to opioid use have grown dramatically over the past ten years. The risk of harm from overdose may be compounded if recreational users are afraid to call for emergency assistance for fear of facing criminal charges. However, opioid overdoses can be prevented with appropriate medication and prompt emergency response. c) Access to treatment services: A national strategy should also improve patient access to specialized pain management services, and to treatment for opioid addiction. Many believe that if specialized pain treatments were widely available, patients and prescribers would be less likely to rely solely on medication to treat their often debilitating pain. d) A pan-Canadian prescription monitoring program: Programs to monitor the prescribing of opioids and other controlled substances exist in most provinces, but they vary in quality, in the nature of the information they require, and in the purpose for which data is collected. The CMA recommends that all levels of government work with one another and health professional regulatory agencies to develop a pan-Canadian system of real-time prescription drug abuse monitoring and surveillance. This should include the development of national standards for prescription monitoring, to ensure that all jurisdictions across Canada are collecting the same information in a standard way. Standardization of surveillance and monitoring systems can have a number of positive effects, including: * Identifying fraudulent attempts to obtain a prescription, such as an attempt to fill prescriptions from a number of different providers. * Deterring inter-provincial fraud. * Supporting professional regulatory bodies actively monitor and intervene, as needed, with practitioners suspected of over-prescribing or over-dispensing frequently-misused medications. * Finally, supporting researchers gather consistent data to improve our knowledge of the problem, identify research priorities, and determine best practices to address crucial issues. We are pleased that federal, provincial and territorial health ministries have expressed interest in working together on prescription drug abuse issues, and we hope that this will result in a coherent national system for monitoring and surveillance, and thus to improved knowledge about the nature of the problem and its most effective solutions. 3) Improving post-market surveillance and reporting tools Health Canada has traditionally approved drugs for general use based on clinical trials that tend to be of short duration and have relatively few participants. As a result, when a prescription pharmaceutical comes on the market there is still limited information about its safety or effectiveness, and there is a need to keep gathering information from people who are using it in "real-world" conditions. As a consequence, adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are all too common in Canada; according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, one in 200 patients over 65 are hospitalized because of adverse reactions to their medication. As such, CMA once again recommends that Health Canada work to strengthen the capacity of its post-market surveillance system by ensuring that it includes: a) Comprehensive processes for gathering drug safety and effectiveness data: Since most safety data reaches Health Canada in the form of spontaneous adverse drug reaction (ADR) reports, reporting processes should make it easier for physicians and other health professionals to report ADRs voluntarily, by making the reporting system user-friendly and easy to incorporate into a practitioner's busy schedule. Ideally, ADR reporting could be incorporated directly into the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) as this is developed. Spontaneous reports could be augmented with information gathered through other, more systematic means such as formal post-market studies. b) A capacity for rigorous and timely data analysis to identify significant threats to drug safety: The monitoring and analysis that occurs once an adverse drug reaction (ADR) report has been received are critical elements of the post-surveillance system. Monitoring capacity requires rigorous data analysis that can sort "signal from noise" - in other words, sift through the reports, find the ones that indicate unusual events, investigate their cause, and isolate those that indicate a serious public health risk. It also requires that the analysis be timely: we note that in 2011 the Auditor General was particularly critical of Health Canada's post-market surveillance timeliness, noting that it could take several years for reports to be reviewed internally. c) Communication of useful information to health care providers and the public: When new information is uncovered about a prescription drug, it is important that physicians and other health professionals are made aware of it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Therefore, post-approval surveillance requires a system for communicating timely, reliable and objective information to physicians and other health professionals, which they can absorb quickly and incorporate into their everyday practice. Ideally, this communication would report not the safety problem alone but also its implications for their patients and practice: for example, whether some patients are particularly at risk, or whether therapeutic alternatives are available. The CMA supports the expanded ministerial authorities of recall proposed in Bill C-17, the Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act, and the intent to address the short-comings of Canada's post-market surveillance system. We will be providing comments on this legislation in the near future. 4) Supporting Optimal Prescribing In an ideal world, all patients would be prescribed the medications that have the most beneficial effect on their condition while doing the least possible harm. The CMA encourages collaborative efforts toward the achievement of this ideal. For example, medication misuse among seniors is a major concern. According to a 2011 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), 62% of seniors on public drug programs use five or more drug classes, and nearly 30% of those 85 and older have claims for 10 or more prescription drugs. Heavy medication use by people over 65 has a number of consequences: * The risk of adverse drug reactions is several-fold higher for older patients than for younger; * Medication regimes, particularly for those taking several drugs a day on different dosage schedules, can be confusing and lead to errors or non-adherence; and, * Patients may receive prescriptions from multiple providers who, if they have not been communicating with each other, may not know what other medications have been prescribed. This increases the risk of duplicate prescriptions, harmful drug interactions and other medication errors. It is to address such concerns that the CMA developed its 2010 position statement: "A Prescription for Optimal Prescribing This statement recommends that governments at all levels work with prescribers, the public, industry and other stakeholders to develop and implement a nationwide strategy to encourage optimal prescribing and medication use. This strategy should include, among other elements: a) Provision of Relevant, Objective Information: The CMA supports the development and dissemination of information for prescribers that is based on the best available scientific evidence, relevant to clinical practice, and easy to incorporate into a practitioner's daily workflow. At present, physicians receive much of their information from pharmaceutical manufacturers. Since manufacturers have generous budgets to support their information dissemination, their campaigns are impressive and effective; but their impartiality has frequently been called into question. Objective, evidence-based information to health professionals on prescription drugs and their uses could be disseminated in the following ways: * Well-crafted online continuing medical education (CME), funded by objective sources. * Academic detailing, in which teams of experts visit prescribers to provide impartial prescribing advice. Academic detailing programs have demonstrated success; but because they are expensive and labour intensive, it has often been difficult to persuade governments to invest in them. * Making drug information available to prescribers at the point of care, through such means as mobile phone apps and electronic health records. * Programs that monitor a prescriber's habits and compare them to those of peers. CMA encourages such programs if their purpose is to educate rather than to enforce a certain behaviour. Information for prescribers should be augmented by unbiased, up-to-date, practical information for consumers about prescription drugs and their appropriate use. b) Support e-prescribing. Electronic prescribing has the potential to dramatically improve drug therapy. For example an effective e-prescribing system could: * List all the drugs a patient is taking, and identify duplicate prescriptions for the same drug from different providers, thus helping to reduce medication error and prescription fraud; * Incorporate decision-support tools; for example, a warning could appear on the screen if a physician proposes to prescribe a drug that interacts harmfully with another the patient is already taking. * Improve decision making and communication between providers, providing all of a patient's caregivers access to a common, comprehensive medication profile; and * Increase convenience for the patient and eliminate illegible handwriting, which is a major cause of medication error. The CMA recommends that governments, health care leadership and clinical organizations in all jurisdictions commit to make e-prescribing a reality by 2015, and ensure the policy/regulatory environment that supports e-prescribing. 5) Addressing gaps in insurance coverage for prescription medication Finally, another consequence of the increased role of pharmaceuticals in health care is that, because they are not generally covered by the Canada Health Act, many Canadians, particularly those in the lowest income groups, are unable to afford them. Data from the 2007 Community Health Survey estimate that 1 in 10 Canadians does not adhere to their prescription regimes for reasons of cost. The CMA recommends that governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. Conclusion As previously mentioned, CMA has focussed its discussion of unintended consequences on recommendations to support public health, quality care, and patient safety. The CMA commends the Committee for making this issue the subject of study, and hope that our recommendations, and those of other witnesses, will lead to action to address the unintended consequences of prescription pharmaceuticals in Canada. Summary of Recommendations 1) The CMA recommends that the Senate Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee extend its study on prescription pharmaceuticals to explore the root causes of shortages in the supply of prescription medication in Canada and strategies to mitigate the impacts on patients and patient care. 2) The CMA recommends that the federal government work with provincial/territorial governments and other stakeholders to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy to address the problem of prescription drug misuse and abuse in Canada. 3) The CMA recommends that all levels of government work with one another and health professional regulatory agencies to develop a pan-Canadian system of real-time prescription drug abuse monitoring and surveillance. 4) The CMA recommends that Health Canada continue to improve the capacity of its post-approval surveillance system to: * Make it easier for health professionals to submit voluntary ADR reports * Analyze the data that has been gathered, in a rigorous and timely manner; and * Communicate essential information to health care providers and the public in a timely and user-friendly manner. 5) The CMA recommends that governments at all levels work with prescribers, the public, industry and other stakeholders to develop and implement a nationwide strategy to encourage optimal prescribing and medication use. 6) The CMA supports the development and dissemination of prescribing information that is: * based on the best available scientific evidence; * relevant to clinical practice; and, * easy to incorporate into a physician's workflow. 7) The CMA calls on governments to support and deliver funding for impartial continuing medical education programs on optimal prescribing. 8) The CMA recommends that governments, health care leadership and clinical organizations in all jurisdictions commit to make e-prescribing a reality by 2015, and ensure the policy/regulatory environment that supports e-prescribing. 9) The CMA recommends that governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies.
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