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CMA Letter to the Legislative Committee on Bill C-30: Clean Air Act

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8714

Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-02-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-02-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to participate in the review of the Clean Air Act, Bill C- 30. The CMA, first founded in 1867, currently represents more than 64,000 physicians across the country. Our mission includes advocating for the highest standard of health and health care for all Canadians and we are committed to activities that will result in healthy public policy. The Environment: A Key Determinant of Health The physical environment is a key determinant of a population's health and the medical profession is concerned about environmental conditions that contribute to declining health in individuals and the population as a whole. Physicians have been part of an early warning system of scientists and other health professionals calling attention to the effects on human health of poor air quality because we see the impact in our practice and in our communities. There is strong evidence that air pollution is the most harmful environmental problem in Canada in terms of human health effects. We know from the smog health studies undertaken by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), Health Canada and others, about the public health crisis created by polluted air in many parts of Canada. And it is a crisis. A study by the federal government estimated that 5,900 premature deaths occur annually in eight large Canadian cities. This is a conservative estimate as the study focused on the short-term impact of smog pollutants using time-series studies. This study was never extrapolated to the whole Canadian population, but we know that only approximately one third of the Canadian population, mainly residents of large, urban areas, were included in the analysis.1 The OMA Illness Costs of Air Pollution study estimated that there were 5,800 premature deaths due to air pollution in Ontario alone in 2005, and examined both short-term and long-term health impacts. The OMA projected that the annual figure will grow to 10,000 premature deaths by 2026 unless effective steps are taken to reduce smog.2 In addition to premature deaths, the OMA estimated that there were 16,000 hospital admissions and 60,000 emergency room visits in Ontario in 2005 because of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses associated with air pollution exposure. During that same year, the OMA also estimated that there were 29 million minor illness days, defined as days where individuals either suffered from asthma symptoms or had to restrict their activities. Most of the people affected by these so-called minor illness days are children. In British Columbia, the Provincial Officer for Health published a conservative estimate in 2004 that air pollution in B.C. is causing between 140 and 400 premature deaths, 700 to 2,100 hospital stays, and between 900 and 2,750 emergency room visits each year.3 The direct and indirect costs of air pollution on the health of Canadians are estimated to be in the billions of dollars. According to the Ontario Medical Association, in 2005, air pollution costs in Ontario were estimated at: - $374 million in lost productivity and work time; - $507 million in direct health care costs; - $537 million in pain and suffering due to non-fatal illness; and - $6.4 billion in loss due to premature death.4 In Canada the environment is currently considered to be the most important issue facing society. In a recent poll by the Strategic Counsel for the Globe & Mail/CTV5 a majority of respondents ranked the impact of toxic chemicals, air and water pollution and global warming as life threatening. The environment, while a major concern today for the general public, has been of concern to physicians for some time. CMA, Health and the Environment In 1991 the CMA, released a policy paper Health, the Environment and Sustainable Development6 that clearly linked health and the environment. Building on the 1987 Brundtland Report (World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future) that tied sustainable development to the environment and the economy, the CMA inserted health into this pair of interactions and stated that "continued environmental degradation will increase hazard to human health." The paper concluded with a number of recommendations for governments, the health sector, and physicians in support of environmentally sustainable development. The CMA has continued to give attention to environmental issues urging the government, prior to Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, to commit to choosing a climate change strategy that satisfies Canada's international commitments while maximizing the clean air co-benefits and smog-reduction potential of any greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. In 2002, the CMA also recommended that the federal Environment and Health Ministers commit their departments to improved health-based reporting by regularly updating the health effects information for pollutants of concern. Clean Air Act: A Physicians Perspective Doctors understand the concept that success from an intervention can be nuanced. In the case of disease, physicians know and accept that there are benefits of treatment even if a patient cannot be cured. Sometimes we just reduce their symptoms, or slow their rate of decline. But when treating the natural environment, so critical to human health, we suggest that you cannot accept a palliative solution. We must aim for cure. We must commit to measures of success in terms of real improvement in health. It is through this lens that the CMA urges that you view the Clean Air Act to ensure that it is health-relevant. The CMA would like to commend this government for acknowledging the impact of the physical environment on human health and we are encouraged that the Act recognizes the intimate connection between greenhouse gas reductions and improved air quality. Air pollution does not respect provincial borders therefore it is very important to establish national objectives and Canada wide standards that are strong and consistent across the country. To be health relevant national air quality objectives must result in air quality improvements. To this end, regardless of whether they are called objectives or standards, national air quality targets must protect the health of all Canadians and must be binding. Voluntary air quality guidelines guarantee no health benefit. The federal government must ensure that there is a regulatory framework in place to ensure that the standards are mandatory across the country. The annual reporting to Parliament on the attainment of the national air quality objectives and the effectiveness of measures to attain the objectives, as outlined in the Act, is very important. Transparency in reporting is essential to the integrity of any program, but is integral to the determination of health benefit. The International Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment report released on February 2, 2007, concluded that global warming is unequivocal and that human activity is the main driver, asserting with near certainty - more than 90 percent confidence - that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities have been the main causes of warming since 1950. Its Third Assessment report: Climate Change 2001: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability noted that global climate change will have a wide range of impacts on human health. "Overall, negative health impacts are expected to outweigh positive health impacts. Some health impacts would result from changes in the frequencies and intensities of extremes of heat and cold and of floods and droughts. Other health impacts would result from the impacts of climate change on ecological and social systems and would include changes in infectious disease occurrence, local food production and nutritional adequacy, and concentrations of local air pollutants and aeroallergens, as well as various health consequences of population displacement and economic disruption."7 Given the indisputable impact of greenhouse gas increases on climate change and its connection to human health, it is critical to ensure that Canada is moving quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Air Act and the subsequent notice of intent sets out short, medium and long term targets and timelines for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. The target setting approach proposed in the Act, based on emission intensity in the short and medium term is not health relevant. To be health relevant, targets should be presented in the context of overall emissions, i.e., emissions reductions minus emissions increases. An emission reduction from a particular source is only health-relevant if we can guarantee that there is not a corresponding emissions increase at another source nearby, because it is the absolute exposure that an individual experiences that affects the risk of an adverse health effect. Just as slowing the progression of a disease can never be considered a cure, attempting only to limit the growth of those emissions cannot result in true success by any measure. It is not until 2050 that the government has committed to achieving an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of between 45 - 65% of 2003 levels. Based on the emission intensity targets in the Clean Air Act, emissions and air pollution levels will, in fact, continue to rise as will the health consequences. In order to protect the health of Canadians the government needs to set policies, with targets and timelines that maximize absolute reductions in greenhouse gases, which are consistent with the scale and urgency of the challenge. To ensure that prescribed policies result in the intended environment and health outcomes, short and medium-term targets for absolute emission reductions would benchmark progress and allow for mid-course corrections, if they were needed. With respect to indoor air quality, physicians have long been proponents of initiatives to reduce exposure to contaminants such as second-hand tobacco smoke. The CMA is concerned about the impact on human health of exposure to high levels of radon and the associated increased risk of lung cancer. The intention to develop measures to address indoor air quality through a national radon strategy is a positive step. It is important that our patients are made aware of such threats in their homes, and also that they are presented with a way to reduce their exposure. Environmentally related illness is essentially the combined result of exposure and vulnerability. We are vulnerable because we are human beings; each human being has different physical strengths and weaknesses. Some vulnerabilities to environmental influences are genetic, and some the results of pre-existing disease. There is not much that government can do about this part of the equation. Our exposure, on the other hand is related to the air we breathe, water we drink and food we eat. This is where the federal government is critical, and where the measures of success will be the most important. Proxy measures for the health outcomes that matter must be relevant from a health perspective. Health-based success can only be measured by quantifiable reductions in the exposure levels of contaminants in our air as well as in our water and soil. Clean air is absolutely fundamental to a healthy population - without it all else is irrelevant. Actions to curb air pollution must be taken in all sectors and levels of society in a concerted, non-partisan effort with the health of the population and the planet as our yardstick of success. Thank you for the opportunity to provide our comments on Bill C-30, the Clean Air Act. We look forward to working with you to improve the Clean Air Act and ensure that the measure of its success will benefit the health of Canadians. Sincerely Colin J. McMillan, MD, CM, FRCPC, FACP President 1 S. Judek, B. Jessiman, D. Stieb, and R. Vet. 2005. Estimated Number of Excess Deaths in Canada Due to Air Pollution". Health Canada and Environment Canada. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/ nr-cp/2005/2005_32bk2_e.html#top 2 Ontario Medical Association. 2005. The Illness Costs of Air Pollution: 2005-2026 Health and Economic Damage Estimates. Toronto: OMA. 3 B.C. Provincial Health Officer. 2004. Every Breath You Take: Air Quality in British Columbia, A Public Health Perspective. 2003 Annual Report. Victoria: Ministry of Health Services. 4 Ontario Medical Association , 2005 5 GLOBE/CTV POLL Climate concerns now top security and health One in four label environmental issues as most important, The Globe and Mail, Fri 26 Jan 2007, Page: A1, Section: National News , Byline: Brian Laghi 6 Health, the Environment and Sustainable Development, Canadian Medical Association , 1991 7 WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2001, IPPC Third Assessment Report: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, accessed Feb 7, 2007 http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg2/348.htm

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Submission to House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Regarding the Common Drug Review

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8719

Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-05-14
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-05-14
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association represents more than 65,000 physicians in Canada; its mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and to be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care. In pursuit of this mission we are developing a growing body of policy on pharmaceutical issues. In November 2003, we presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health during its study of prescription drug issues. In July 2006 CMA, along with four other national organizations representing patients, health professionals, health system managers and trustees, formed the Coalition for a Canadian Pharmaceutical Strategy and released a framework and principles that we believed should govern the development of pharmaceutical strategy in this country. We understand that the current study of the Common Drug Review (CDR) is part of a larger, more comprehensive study of prescription drugs being contemplated by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. We look forward to assisting you with this study. In the meantime, we will note that the CDR is intimately linked to related issues such as catastrophic coverage and a national formulary, and will also briefly discuss these in our presentation. Pharmaceuticals are important to the health of Canadians. For many patients prescription drugs have prevented serious disease, reduced hospital stays, replaced surgical treatment and improved their capacity to function productively in the community. Pharmaceuticals also offer health-care system benefits by reducing other costs such as hospital expenses and disability payments. While prescription drugs offer significant benefits, expenditures on them are also growing faster than any other component of health care. It is realistic to expect that the role of prescription drugs in health care will continue to increase and that as a result government expenditures on them will rise accordingly. As patients become increasingly knowledgeable and politically aware, they will continue to expect and demand access to an expanded range of prescription drugs. CMA believes that any pharmaceutical strategy should be predicated on two pre-eminent principles, which are in keeping with longstanding Canadian values: * All Canadians should have access to safe and effective prescription drugs; and * No Canadian should be deprived of medically necessary drugs because of inability to pay. Whether the CDR serves to further these goals has been a matter of vigorous debate. Federal and provincial representatives have told the House of Commons Committee that the CDR is meeting their needs and has in some cases provided them with a higher-quality review than they could have achieved on their own. On the other hand, patient groups have charged that the CDR is an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and a barrier between them and potentially life-saving new therapies. It is possible, if not probable, that reforms to the CDR may never completely eliminate the tension between these two viewpoints. We understand the frustration of patients and their advocates when the CDR recommends against public reimbursement or even more, when the CDR approves a drug but individual provinces refuse to include that drug on their formularies. In both these cases, sustainability of the health care system is an important and valid consideration. It would be unfortunate if our limited health care dollars, which might otherwise have been spent on disease treatment or prevention strategies of proven effectiveness, went instead to funding expensive drugs which ultimately proved no more beneficial to patients than others which cost much less. 2) General principles regarding drug review The process of reviewing drugs for inclusion in public formularies did not begin with the CDR. Before it was created, each federal and provincial formulary conducted its own review. Without the CDR, separate reviews would still be taking place. To dismantle the review process entirely would be unacceptable, both economically and politically. Within the context of an overarching goal to enhance access to medically required pharmaceuticals to the extent that they are needed, the primary purpose of a drug review process should be to help ensure access to prescription drugs for which evidence indicates safety and effectiveness in the treatment, management and prevention of disease, and/or significant benefits in quality of life. To help ensure that it achieves this purpose, we believe the following principles should apply to drug review in Canada: * The review process should be impartial and founded on the best available scientific evidence. * The primary criteria for inclusion in a formulary should be whether the drug improves health outcomes, and offers an improvement over products currently on the market. * The review process should also incorporate evaluation of the drug's cost-effectiveness. * Drugs should be evaluated not in isolation but as an integral part of the health care continuum. The review should consider: * A drug's impact on overall health care utilization. If a drug reduces a patient's hospital stay, helps an otherwise disabled patient return to work, or replaces other costlier or more invasive therapies, this should be considered in evaluating its overall cost-effectiveness. * Alternatives to the drug under review. The review should compare a drug's performance to other drugs in the same class, and to available non-drug therapies. * The review process should be flexible, taking into account the unique needs and therapeutic outcomes of individual patients, and the expertise of physicians in determining which drugs are best for their patients. * The review process should be open and transparent. We support the CDR's intent to publish the rationales for its decisions, including lay-language versions. * CDR findings are a valuable source of information on the safety and effectiveness of the drugs physicians prescribe. As such, they should be communicated to caregivers and patients as part of an ongoing strategy to encourage best practices in prescribing. * Meaningful participation by patients and health professionals should be part of the review process; we note with approval the expansion of the Canadian Expert Drug Advisory Committee to include members of the public. We also suggest that the CDR experiment with open fora and other means of obtaining public input. * A process for appealing the review's decisions should be established. * Ongoing evaluation of the review process should be required. We note that the CDR has already undergone an evaluation, and is planning to implement some of the key recommendations. Impartial evaluations should continue to take place, to assess whether the CDR is having a positive impact on the health of Canadians and of their health care system. 3) The Larger Picture The Common Drug Review does not exist in isolation. As the Coalition for a Canadian Pharmaceutical Strategy - of which CMA is a member - stressed in its 2006 statement, the elements of a comprehensive Canadian pharmaceutical strategy are interdependent and should be developed concurrently to ensure that the strategy is coherent and holistic. The CDR is interlinked with other issues concerning access to health care generally and to prescription drugs more specifically, and we suggest that the Committee also consider the following issues: a) Drugs for Rare Disorders. One controversy surrounding the CDR is that its approval rates are low for drugs for very rare disorders, many of which are first-in-class. One reason may be the cost of these drugs, which is often extremely high. It is also alleged that the Canadian Expert Drug Advisory Committee's (CEDAC) current review standards, which place a high value on large-sample clinical trials, are unable to adequately capture the value of these drugs. It has been recommended that more drugs for rare disorders be approved based on interim targets or surrogate endpoints. The ultimate measure of a drug's effectiveness is its clinical endpoint; this should not be forgotten in any process of drug approval. This issue merits closer consideration, as do all issues related to drugs for rare disorders. CMA recommends that Canada develop a policy on drugs for rare disorders, which: * Encourages their development; * Evaluates their effectiveness; and * Ensures that all patients who might benefit have reasonable access to them. b) Common Formulary. CMA recommends that Canada's governments consider the possibility of establishing a pan-Canadian formulary. Canadian patients need a national standard; 18 different levels of coverage is not acceptable. Should the CDR form the basis of this formulary? That would depend on whether evaluation proves that the CDR is the most effective vehicle. We do believe that cost control, though not the primary function of a pan-Canadian formulary, is a valid system concern. If two drugs in the same class are equally effective, it is reasonable to expect that the less expensive drug should be preferentially covered and/or prescribed. On the other hand, a pan-Canadian formulary should be flexible. It should include a process to allow patients access to off-formulary drugs if in the opinion of the attending physician the recommended product is not the right choice for them. This process should be designed so as to minimize the administrative burden on health professionals. c) Catastrophic Drug Coverage. It is now generally accepted that a pan-Canadian catastrophic drug program is needed. The point of discussion now is what type of program should be put in place. To ensure that Canadians can access the drugs they need, regardless of where they live or how much they earn, CMA recommends that federal, provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with private insurers, assess the drug needs of Canadians, particularly those who are uninsured or under-insured, and agree on an option for providing equitable and comprehensive prescription drug coverage. As a starting point, CMA has recommended that governments give priority to a national pharmacare program to provide necessary drugs for all Canadian children and youth. Conclusion In principle, CMA believes that a process for reviewing prescription drugs for their clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness can contribute to improving the health of Canada's patients and our health care system. The value of the CDR will be determined by how well it performs this function. Canadian Medical Association May 14, 2007

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