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Cannabis for Medical Purposes

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10045
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2010-12-04
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2010-12-04
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has always recognized the unique requirements of those individuals suffering from a terminal illness or chronic disease for which conventional therapies have not been effective and for whom cannabis may provide relief. However, there are a number of concerns, primarily related to the limited evidence to support many of the therapeutic claims made regarding cannabis for medical purposes, and the need to support health practitioners in their practice.1,2,3,4 While the indications for using cannabis to treat some conditions have been well studied, less information is available about many potential medical uses. Physicians who wish to authorize the use of cannabis for patients in their practices should consult relevant CMPA policy5 and guidelines developed by the provincial and territorial medical regulatory authorities to ensure appropriate medico-legal protection. The CMA’s policy Authorizing Marijuana for Medical Purposes6, as well as the CMA’s Guidelines For Physicians In Interactions With Industry7 should also be consulted. The CMA makes the following recommendations: 1. Increase support for the advancement of scientific knowledge about the medical use of cannabis. The CMA encourages the government to support rigorous scientific research into the efficacy for therapeutic claims, safety, dose-response relationships, potential interactions and the most effective routes of delivery, and in various populations. 2. Apply the same regulatory oversight and evidence standards to cannabis as to pharmaceutical products under the Food and Drug Act, designed to protect the public by the assessment for safety and efficacy. 3. Increase support for physicians on the use of cannabis for medical purposes in their practice settings. As such, CMA calls on the government to work with the CMA, The College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, 2 and other relevant stakeholders, to develop unbiased, accredited education options and licensing programs for physicians who authorize the use of cannabis for their patients based on the best available evidence. Background In 2001, Health Canada enacted the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR). These were in response to an Ontario Court of Appeal finding that banning cannabis for medicinal purposes violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.8 The MMAR, as enacted, was designed to establish a framework to allow legal access to cannabis, then an illegal drug, for the relief of pain, nausea and other symptoms by people suffering from serious illness where conventional treatments had failed. While recognizing the needs of those suffering from terminal illness or chronic disease, CMA raised strong objections to the proposed regulations. There were concerns about the lack of evidence on the risks and benefits associated with the use of cannabis. This made it difficult for physicians to advise their patients appropriately and manage doses or potential side effects. The CMA believes that physicians should not be put in the untenable position of gatekeepers for a proposed medical intervention that has not undergone established regulatory review processes as required for all prescription medicines. Additionally, there were concerns about medico-legal liability, and the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), encouraged those physicians that were uncomfortable with the regulations to refrain from authorizing cannabis to patients. Various revisions were made to the MMAR, and then these were substituted by the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) in 2013/ 2014 and subsequently by the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) in 2016 and now as part of the Cannabis Act (Section 14)9. Healthcare practitioners that wish to authorize cannabis for their patients are required to sign a medical document, indicating the daily quantity of dried cannabis, expressed in grams. For the most part, these revisions have been in response to decisions from various court decisions across the country.10,11,12 Courts have consistently sided with patients’ rights to relieve symptoms of terminal disease or certain chronic conditions, despite the limited data on the effectiveness of cannabis. Courts have not addressed the ethical position in which physicians are placed as a result of becoming the gate keeper for access to a medication without adequate evidence. The CMA participated in many Health Canada consultations with stakeholders as well as scientific advisory committees and continued to express the concerns of the physician community. As previously noted, the Federal government has been constrained by the decisions of Canadian courts. 3 The current state of evidence regarding harms of cannabis use is also limited but points to some serious concerns. Ongoing research has shown that regular cannabis use during brain development (up to approximately 25 years old) is linked to an increased risk of mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, especially if there is a personal or family history of mental illness. Long term use has also been associated with issues of attention, impulse control and emotional regulation. Smoking of cannabis also has pulmonary consequences such as chronic bronchitis. It is also linked to poorer pregnancy outcomes. Physicians are also concerned with dependence, which occurs in up to 10% of regular users. From a public and personal safety standpoint, cannabis can impact judgement and increases the risk of accidents (e.g. motor vehicle incidents). For many individuals, cannabis use is not without adverse consequences.3,13,14 Pharmaceutically prepared alternative options, often administered orally, are also available and regulated in Canada.15 These drugs mimic the action of delta-9-tetra-hydrocannabional (THC) and other cannabinoids and have undergone clinical trials to demonstrate safety and effectiveness and have been approved for use through the Food and Drug Act. Of note is that in this format, the toxic by-products of smoked marijuana are avoided.16 However, the need for more research is evident. Approved by the CMA Board in December 2010. Last reviewed and approved by the CMA Board in March 2019. References 1 Allan GM, Ramji J, Perry D, et al. Simplified guideline for prescribing medical cannabinoids in primary care. Canadian Family Physician, 2018;64(2):111-120. Available: http://www.cfp.ca/content/cfp/64/2/111.full.pdf (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 2 College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC). Authorizing Dried Cannabis for Chronic Pain or Anxiety: Preliminary Guidance. Mississauga: CFPC; 2014. Available: https://www.cfpc.ca/uploadedFiles/Resources/_PDFs/Authorizing%20Dried%20Cannabis%20for%20Chronic%20Pain%20or%20Anxiety.pdf (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 3 The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: the current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2017. 4 Whiting PF, Wolff RF, Deshpande S, et al. Cannabinoids for medical use: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA 2015;313(24):2456-73. 5 Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). Medical marijuana: considerations for Canadian doctors. Ottawa: CMPA; 2018. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/en/advice-publications/browse-articles/2014/medical-marijuana-new-regulations-new-college-guidance-for-canadian-doctors (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 6 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Authorizing marijuana for medical purposes. Ottawa: CMA; 2014. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11514 http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD15-04.pdf (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 7 Canadian Medical Association. (CMA) Guidelines for Physicians In Interactions With Industry. Ottawa: CMA; 2007. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD08-01.pdf. (accessed 2019 Jan22). 4 8 R. v. Parker, 2000 CanLII 5762 (ON CA). Available: http://canlii.ca/t/1fb95 (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 9 Cannabis Act. Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes. Section 14. 2018. Available: https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2018-144/page-28.html#h-81 (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 10 Hitzig v. Canada, 2003 CanLII 3451 (ON SC). Available: http://canlii.ca/t/1c9jd (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 11 Allard v. Canada, [2016] 3 FCR 303, 2016 FC 236 (CanLII), Available: http://canlii.ca/t/gngc5 (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 12 R. v. Smith, 2014 ONCJ 133 (CanLII). Available: http://canlii.ca/t/g68gk (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 13 Volkow ND, Baler RD, Compton WM, Weiss SRB. Adverse health effects of marijuana use. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(23):2219–2227. 14 World Health Organization. The health and social effects of nonmedical cannabis use. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2016. Available: https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/msbcannabis.pdf (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 15 Ware MA. Is there a role for marijuana in medical practice? Can Fam Physician 2006;52(12):1531-1533. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1952544/pdf/0530022a.pdf (accessed 2019 Jan 8). 16 Engels FK, de Jong FA, Mathijssen RHJ, et.al. Medicinal cannabis in oncology. Eur J Cancer. 2007;43(18):2638-2644. Available: https://www.clinicalkey.com/service/content/pdf/watermarked/1-s2.0-S0959804907007368.pdf?locale=en_US (accessed 2019 Jan 8).
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Chalk River National Research Universal reactor

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9919
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
2010-08-25
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Resolution
GC10-102
The Canadian Medical Association urges the federal government to make a public commitment to keep the Chalk River National Research Universal reactor operational for as long as necessary beyond the announced date of 2016 and until secure alternative supplies of isotopes or alternative radiopharmaceuticals are proven and available.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
2010-08-25
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Resolution
GC10-102
The Canadian Medical Association urges the federal government to make a public commitment to keep the Chalk River National Research Universal reactor operational for as long as necessary beyond the announced date of 2016 and until secure alternative supplies of isotopes or alternative radiopharmaceuticals are proven and available.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association urges the federal government to make a public commitment to keep the Chalk River National Research Universal reactor operational for as long as necessary beyond the announced date of 2016 and until secure alternative supplies of isotopes or alternative radiopharmaceuticals are proven and available.
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Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy188
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-09-30
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-09-30
Replaces
Position paper on direct to consumer prescription drug advertising (1986)
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) Policy Statement Canadians have a right to information about prescription drugs and other therapeutic interventions, to enable them to make informed decisions about their own health. This information must be evidence based and provide details about side effects and health risks as well as benefits. Brand-specific direct-to-consumer advertisements, such as those permitted in the United States, do not provide optimal information on prescription drugs. We are concerned that DTCA: * is not information but marketing, and sends the message that a prescription drug is a “consumer good” rather than a health care benefit. * may not provide enough information to allow the consumer to make appropriate drug choices. For example, it generally does not provide information about other products or therapies that could be used to treat the same condition. In addition, it may stimulate demand by exaggerating the risks of a disease and generating unnecessary fear. * may strain the relationship between patients and providers, for example if a patient’s request for an advertised prescription drug is refused. * drives up the cost of health care, and undermines the efforts of physicians, pharmacists and others to promote optimal drug therapy. Patient groups, health care providers, governments and pharmaceutical manufacturers should be supported in activities to develop objective, reliable plain-language information about prescription drugs to ensure that Canadians are able to make informed health care decisions. Therefore we: * Support the provision of objective, evidence-based, reliable plain-language information for the public about prescription drugs. * Oppose direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising in Canada.
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A Prescription for Optimal Prescribing

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10016
Last Reviewed
2016-05-20
Date
2010-08-26
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2016-05-20
Date
2010-08-26
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
This paper presents the position of the Canadian Medical Association on what physicians can do, working with others, to ensure that Canadians are prescribed the drugs that will give them the most benefit. It also makes recommendations for future action that physicians, governments and others might take to foster optimal prescribing practices. CMA believes that optimal prescribing is the prescription of a drug that is: - The most clinically appropriate for the patient's condition; - Safe and effective; - Part of a comprehensive treatment plan; and - The most cost-effective drug available to meet the patient's needs. Choices made by prescribers are subject to a number of influences, including education (undergraduate, residency and continuing); availability of useful point of care information; drug marketing and promotion; patient preferences and participation, and drug cost and coverage. The CMA proposes a "prescription for optimal prescribing" that encompasses six elements, and makes the following recommendations: A National Strategy 1) Governments at all levels should work with prescribers, the public, industry and other stakeholders to develop and implement a nationwide strategy to encourage optimal prescribing and medication use. Element 1: Relevant, Objective Information for Physicians 2) The CMA supports the development and dissemination of prescribing information that is: - based on the best available scientific evidence; -relevant to clinical practice; - easy to incorporate into a physician's workflow. 3) The CMA encourages all medical educational bodies to support a comprehensive program of education in pharmaceuticals, pharmacology and optimal prescribing, at the undergraduate, residency and continuing medical education levels. 4) The CMA and provincial/territorial medical associations call on governments to support and fund impartial continuing medical education programs on optimal prescribing. 5) The CMA calls on appropriate educational bodies to develop policies or guidelines to ensure the objectivity and impartiality of continuing medical education. 6) The CMA recommends that governments, research institutes and other stakeholders fund and conduct ongoing clinical research on the effectiveness of interventions designed to change behaviour, and allocate resources to those interventions that demonstrate the greatest effectiveness. Element 2: Electronic Prescribing 7) The CMA, provincial/territorial medical associations and affiliates encourage governments to give active support to physicians in their transition to electronic prescribing, through a comprehensive strategy that includes financial support for acquisition of hardware and software, and dissemination of appropriate training and knowledge transfer tools. 8) The CMA calls on governments to incorporate into electronic prescribing the following principles: - Measures to ensure patients' privacy and confidentiality, as well as confidentiality of physician prescribing information; - A link with a formulary, to provide physicians with best practice information including drug cost data; - Guidelines for data sharing among health professionals and others; - Standards for electronic signature that are not overly restrictive. Element 3: Programs by Payers 9) The CMA recommends that formularies, in both the public and private sectors, simplify administrative requirements on patients and physicians, reducing paperwork to the minimum necessary to ensure optimal patient care. Element 4: Collaboration among Health Care Providers 10) The CMA recommends that formalized and clearly articulated collaborative arrangements be in place for practitioners who jointly manage a patient's drug therapy. Element 5: Impartial, Evidence-based Information for Patients 11) The CMA calls on governments to fund and facilitate the development and provision of unbiased, up-to-date, practical information to consumers about prescription drugs and their appropriate use, and support physicians and pharmacists in disseminating this information to patients. 12) The CMA calls on the Government of Canada to continue to enforce the current ban on direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising in Canada, and close the loopholes that currently allow a limited amount of drug promotion. Element 6: Research, Monitoring and Evaluation 13) The CMA calls on those who fund and produce research on drug safety and effectiveness, prescribing guidelines and programs to enhance prescribing practices, to include physicians and medical organizations meaningfully in this activity. 1 Introduction In an ideal world, all patients would be prescribed the drugs that have the most beneficial effect on their condition while doing the least possible harm, at the most appropriate cost to the patient and the health care system. It is generally agreed that we have not yet achieved that ideal. But the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the physicians of Canada believe it is a goal worth striving to attain. The CMA has a long-standing commitment to fostering high-quality health care. One of the key elements of the long-term Health Care Transformation project, in which CMA is currently involved, is ensuring that systems are in place to foster health care that is of high quality. One such system would be the active encouragement of optimal prescribing. This paper presents the CMA's position and recommendations on what physicians can do, working with others, to ensure that Canadians are prescribed the drugs that will give them the most benefit. It looks at prescribing mainly from the perspective of the practicing physician who is seeking the most appropriate treatments for individual patients. However it also comments on the effects of prescribing on the broader health care system, both on Canadians' overall health status and on the costs of delivering health care. 2) Optimal Prescribing: CMA's Definition and Principles a) What is Optimal Prescribing? Prescribing is not an exact science; the choice of a particular drug to treat a particular patient depends on that patient's unique circumstances. CMA's proposed definition and principles for optimal prescribing is as follows: Optimal prescribing is the prescription of a drug that is - the most clinically appropriate drug for the patient's condition; - safe and effective; - part of a comprehensive treatment plan; and - the most cost-effective drug available to best meet the patient's needs. b) Principles for Optimal Prescribing CMA believes that in an optimal prescribing environment, the following principles should apply: Principles for Optimal Prescribing 1) The primary goal of prescribing should be to improve or maintain the health of the patient. 2) Prescribing should take place in the context of overall patient care which involves diagnosis of the condition, other forms of treatment including rehabilitation, counselling and lifestyle adjustments, ongoing monitoring and re-evaluation of the patient's condition and treatment to make sure the patient is responding appropriately, ensuring patient adherence to medication regimen, and discontinuation of drug treatment when it is no longer needed. 3) Patients should be actively involved in decisions regarding their drug treatment; for this, useful and practical patient information is required. 4) Prescribing decisions should be based on the best available scientific evidence, which is continually evaluated and updated as need arises. 5) Physicians should retain clinical autonomy in deciding which drugs to prescribe. 6) Prescribing decisions should take into account the cost to the patient, and strive to achieve cost-effectiveness as long as this does not conflict with the goal of optimal patient care. 7) Physicians should be updated on new developments in pharmacotherapy, through an ongoing process of relevant, objective continuing education. 8) Health professionals should take a leadership role in developing and evaluating strategies and tools to enhance best practices in prescribing. Though these principles may also apply to the optimal use of medical devices, prescription drugs are the primary focus of the paper. 3 Why Optimal Prescribing is Important Prescription drugs are an increasingly important part of patient care in Canada. Fifty years ago, they were used mainly for short periods of time to treat acute conditions, and their contribution to overall health care costs was small. But in 2005, Canadians received 14 prescriptions per capita; that number rose to 74 for people 80 years and over.i Many Canadians now take prescription drugs over the long term to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis or high cholesterol. Increased drug utilization, and the high prices of many new drug therapies, have increased the cost of prescription drugs to Canadians and to the health care system. In 2008 Canadians spent about $25.4 billion on prescription drugs. This, in constant dollars, is roughly triple what was spent in 1985.ii Together, prescription and over-the-counter drugs consume a larger portion of overall costs than do physicians' services; in fact, only hospitals consume a larger share. In many cases prescription drugs have reduced reliance on hospitalization and surgical procedures. For example, over the past decades drugs to treat peptic ulcer disease have changed its treatment profile from one based mainly on surgery to a largely medical one. On the other hand, patients may take certain medications or classes of medications for many years, and this long-term use may have health consequences that are currently unknown. As their role in health care increases, there is increasing public scrutiny over whether the prescription drugs Canadians use are safe and effective, whether they give good value for money, and whether they are being prescribed and taken optimally for maximum patient benefit. As mentioned before, prescribing is not an exact science; what in some cases might be considered "suboptimal" is in other cases quite appropriate. In most instances, drugs are prescribed appropriately. However, evidence suggests that in some areas there is room for improvement. Prescribers can enhance patient care and improve Canadians' health by adopting strategies such as the following: - Reducing overprescribing of certain drugs. For example, overuse of antibiotics is a worldwide concerniii since it may hasten the development of antibiotic resistance, thereby reducing the physician's therapeutic arsenal. - Reducing underprescribing of certain drugs. A study of primary care practices in Ontario found that while 14% of adult patients had dyslipidemia, 63.2 % were untreated and, of those treated, 47.2% were not adequately controlled .iv - Prescribing drugs according to generally accepted clinical practice guidelines to ensure that first-line drugs are used where indicated. Second-line therapies are frequently newer and less established than first-line ones, and are thus more likely to have unidentified safety risks. - Ensuring that drugs are prescribed and taken safely, to reduce the harm caused by adverse interactions with other drugs, natural health products, alcohol or other agents in the patient's system. Activities in support of the above strategies should be included in any program or initiative aimed at improving health care in Canada. CMA believes they will contribute to Canadians' overall health status, and may have the additional benefit of reducing health care costs if the prescribed drugs are the most cost-effective available to appropriately treat patients' conditions. 4) Many Factors Affect Prescribing Prescribing does not occur in a vacuum, but is the result of a number of factors that influence physicians. It may be questioned whether these factors provide the necessary support to physicians as they seek to prescribe optimally. Some of these influences are discussed below: a) The Challenge Of Acquiring Information Our knowledge of prescription drugs and their effects is continually being updated, and physicians are required to absorb new information throughout their careers. But are physicians receiving the information they most need, in such a way that they can easily and painlessly incorporate it into their practices? CMA's answer is: there is room for improvement. The major information sources available to physicians are discussed below: i) Physician Education Medical school and residency training - Medical schools vary in how they discuss pharmacological issues, and critics have questioned whether Canada's current medical school curriculum is training future physicians adequately in the art and science of prescribing.v In some cases, pharmacotherapy is taught in the context of each individual body system - cardiac, renal, etc. - rather than as a discrete subject. With this approach, some valuable unifying elements of pharmacology may go untaught. Continuing medical education (CME) - For physicians, CME is an important source of information on new drugs and new indications for existing drugs. But is it imparting the most necessary or appropriate information? Concerns have been raised as to its impartiality; it is estimated that pharmaceutical industry sponsorship accounts for 65% of the total revenue of CME programs in the U.S. and the figure is assumed to be much the same in Canada.vi ii) Point-of-care information With increasingly heavy patient loads, the time at physicians' disposal for research is limited. Often new information is required at the point of care; for example, in the examination room during a patient encounter, when the physician requires an answer quickly. The clinical practice guidelines and point of care reference guides in common use may not be readily accessible in a concise, user-friendly format when needed. In addition, it is of concern that some experts who develop practice guidelines have ties to pharmaceutical manufacturers, which could affect the guidelines' impartiality. To compound the problem, widely used sources of information may not be giving physicians the material they most need. Physicians often receive new safety information, such as warnings of recently discovered drug risks, in the form of advisories from Health Canada or elsewhere. These advisories may not provide physicians with prescribing advice, or information about other treatment options if the drug is considered too dangerous for use. iii) Drug promotion and marketing Much of physicians' information about drugs and prescribing comes from the pharmaceutical industry representatives who visit them in their offices. Drugs promoted in this manner tend to be newer; consequently they are often more expensive than established medications and less is known about their efficacy and possible side effects. Drug promotion might help instil in some physicians' minds the perception that when it comes to medication, "new" equals "better," when this is not always the case. Industry marketing also comes in more subtle forms, such as: - Free drug samples provided to physicians; since samples tend to be mainly for new drugs, it has been suggested that they encourage these drugs' use at the expense of possibly cheaper and safer alternatives. - Collection, by commercial data management companies, of information on physicians' prescribing patterns , which is then sold to pharmaceutical companies to help tailor sales messages to individual physicians. - Manipulation of the medical publication process, through: design of clinical trials so as to get the most positive results; selective publication of clinical trial results; or "ghostwriting" of scholarly research articles by pharmaceutical industry contractors.vii b) Patient education and participation When considering a patient's drug therapy, the physician must consider the possible effect of the patient's behaviour on treatment. A patient may require counselling on the impact of natural health products, alcohol and other substances when mixed with their prescribed medications; on the importance of adherence to the prescribed treatment; or on the need for changes in behaviour (improved diet, increased physical activity) to augment the medication's benefits. This requires open and honest dialogue between patient and physician. Patient knowledge and preferences can influence both over- and under-prescribing. Some patients may not feel that they have been "treated" unless they leave the doctor's office with a prescription. A physician may prescribe a drug if a patient requests it, despite feeling ambivalent about the choice of treatment.viii On the other hand, a physician may not prescribe a needed medication because a patient insists he or she does not want to be "on drugs." The pharmaceutical industry directs promotional activities at patients as well as physicians. Though direct-to consumer advertising (DTCA) or prescription drugs is technically illegal in Canada, loopholes in the law permit a limited amount of Canadian-based drug promotion, and drug ads are often beamed across the border from the United States, one of only two countries (the other being New Zealand) where DTCA is legal. DTCA has a strong influence on patient behaviour; according to one survey by the U.S. Government Accounting Office, 27% of people who saw prescription drug advertisements, requested and received these drugs from their physicians.ix DTCA has been widely criticized for overstating drugs' benefits, playing down their risks, and contributing to a "pill for every ill" mindset and the "medicalization" of conditions that could be more appropriately managed by lifestyle changes or other non-drug therapies. In addition, the pharmaceutical industry can exert indirect influence on patient attitudes through funding of patient advocacy groups and disease-specific web sites. A patient's social context may also motivate a physician to prescribe a drug that may not be clinically indicated. For example, an antipsychotic may be prescribed to calm a patient with dementia, not so much for the patient's benefit as for that of tired and stressed-out caregivers, despite growing evidence of the drugs' health and safety risks and lack of efficacyx. Ideally, prescribing recommendations and guidelines should take into account the broader context in which a drug is prescribed. c) Drug cost and coverage The physician's prescribing of a drug and the patient's purchase of it are separate and unconnected acts. As a result, physicians may not have access to reliable, convenient information on drug costs; or if they do, they may have little reason to use this information if the patient has insurance coverage. However, rising drug prices, and the increased use of drug therapy, may require them to take cost into consideration more often. Provincial and territorial governments, and increasingly, private insurers as well, can influence physician and patient choice of drugs by restricting what medications are covered on their formularies. In addition, many payers have programs to encourage the prescribing of certain drugs such as generics. If, as not infrequently happens, a patient's condition requires a drug not on the formulary, obtaining coverage for this drug requires time-consuming paperwork. The administrative burden this imposes can be a barrier to optimal prescribing. d) The policy context Canadian decision makers have already recognized that action on prescribing is needed. One of the original nine elements of the federal/provincial/territorial National Pharmaceuticals Strategy (NPS), announced in 2004, was "Enhance action to influence the prescribing behaviour of health care professionals so that drugs are used only when needed and the right drug is used for the right problem." However, this was not considered a priority, and the entire NPS is now dormant. In 2009, the Health Council of Canada recommended that optimal prescribing be a priority element in a revived pharmaceutical strategy, noting the need for easily accessible, evidence-based information on the proper use and risks of each medication, and for national co-ordination of efforts toward improved prescribing.xi 5. The CMA's Prescription The previous sections have described the problems that currently exist with prescribing in Canada, and factors that contribute to these problems. In this section the CMA discusses what can be done to make prescribing optimal. Even as a variety of factors influence prescribing, so a variety of elements can contribute to optimizing it. What should be done to encourage optimal prescribing in Canada? The CMA believes that optimal prescribing should be addressed through the development and implementation of a national strategy comprising the six elements discussed in the following pages: Recommendation 1 Governments at all levels should work with prescribers, the public, industry and other stakeholders to develop and implement a nationwide strategy to encourage optimal prescribing and medication use. Element 1: Relevant, Objective Information for Prescribers As our knowledge base on prescription drugs expands, it is communicated to physicians by many different means. The CMA believes it is possible to improve these communications and make them more relevant and useful to prescribing physicians. Recommendation 2 The CMA supports the development and dissemination of prescribing information that is: o based on the best available scientific evidence o relevant to clinical practice o easy to incorporate into a physician's workflow. a) Undergraduate medical education and residency training A basic grounding in pharmacology is a vital part of undergraduate medical education. Appendix 1, which was taken from a 2009 report prepared by Britain's Royal College of Physicians, contains a specific proposal for a core undergraduate curriculum in therapeutics. Basic education in pharmacology should, among other things, help prepare future physicians for the challenge of maintaining their knowledge base in practice. The academic community has a role to play, during undergraduate training and residency, in providing impartial advice on pharmaceutical matters, and ensuring that students and residents can appraise drug research and prescribing guidance critically. Recommendation 3 The CMA encourages all medical educational bodies to support a comprehensive program of education in pharmaceuticals, pharmacology and optimal prescribing, at the undergraduate, residency and continuing medical education levels. b) Continuing medical education (CME) Traditionally, CME meant face-to-face seminars or conferences; however, studies are demonstrating that Internet-based learning is as effective as face-to-face CME.xii Developers and practitioners are increasingly looking at delivering CME online. Of particular promise are formats that deliver information electronically in short, summary bullet points, presenting the most pertinent information on a single screen where feasible. As mentioned before, a large proportion of CME is sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. Like pharmaceutical detailing, industry-sponsored CME might steer physicians toward newer drugs which may not be first-line therapies, and which are often less thoroughly evaluated and more expensive than established treatments. Therefore, in order that physicians can be assured of receiving objective information, there is an urgent need for objective funding sources for CME, that are as distant as possible from potential sources of bias. Recommendation 4 The CMA and provincial/territorial medical associations call on governments to support and fund objective and impartial continuing medical education programs on optimal prescribing. Recommendation 5 The CMA calls on appropriate educational bodies to develop policies or guidelines to ensure the objectivity of continuing medical education. CMA's Guidelines for Physicians in Interaction with Industry (2007) proposes ways in which physicians, medical associations and medical educational bodies can minimize bias when collaborating with industry on CME and continuing professional development programs. c) New Forms of Education Besides formal CME, there are many ways of conveying information to physicians with the intent of influencing prescribing behaviour. One promising intervention is academic detailing, in which trained physicians or pharmacists use the personalized, one-on-one techniques employed by pharmaceutical detailers to encourage adoption of a desired behaviour (e.g., prescribing of a particular drug or treatment regimen) rather than specific drugs, to counterbalance marketing by pharmaceutical representatives. Academic detailing has demonstrated some success. Because it is expensive and labour intensive, it has often been difficult to persuade governments to invest in it. However, a growing number of provinces have developed, or are considering, academic detailing programs. Another promising intervention is physician self-directed learning. In Alberta two medical schools are preparing to perform an analysis of physicians' perceived and unperceived learning needs with the intention of developing individualized learning programs to address the needs of physicians in their practices. The effectiveness of various learning programs in changing behaviour is being studied on an ongoing basisxiii, through means such as the Rx for Change database, a collaborative effort between two Cochrane Collaboration groups and the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. This database summarizes current research evidence, regularly updated, about the effects of strategies to improve drug prescribing practice and drug use. Because different physicians have different needs, goals and styles of learning, multiple formats are required to address them. Though one intervention in and of itself may not produce widespread, immediate or dramatic changes in behaviour, the cumulative effect of multiple messages over time can be very strong. Recommendation 6 The CMA recommends that governments, research institutes and other stakeholders fund and conduct ongoing research on the effectiveness of interventions designed to change clinical behaviour, and allocate resources to those interventions that demonstrate the greatest effectiveness. d) Point-of-care information In addition to formal education programs, information on pharmaceuticals and prescribing is also available to physicians at the point of care. Physicians' preference is for brief summaries of key points, which can be absorbed quickly and be accessed at point of care through hand-held personal digital assistants (PDA's) or, increasingly, through electronic health and prescription records. Drug information compendia are available in electronic and print format. For example, cma.ca provides information about prescription drugs through a program called Lexi-Drugs Online. e-Therapeutics+, developed by the Canadian Pharmacists Association, is another online resource for prescribing and managing drug therapy at the point of care. Online programs are also available that monitor physicians' prescribing habits and compare them to those of their peers. Such programs are to be encouraged if their purpose is to educate rather than to enforce a certain behaviour. However, they will require additional investment, particularly in information technology and software development. Element 2: Electronic Prescribing Electronic prescribing has the potential to dramatically improve drug therapy. For example an effective e-prescribing system has the potential to: - list all the drugs a patient is taking. It could also identify duplicate prescriptions for the same drug from different providers, thus helping to reduce prescription fraud and prescription drug abuse; - provide decision-support tools; for example, a warning could appear on the screen if the physician proposes to prescribe a drug that interacts harmfully with another the patient is already taking. This decision support should ideally be updated in real time so the physician has access to the most current information. - Enable the improvement of patient adherence to drug therapy, perhaps by generating reminders to patients to refill and take prescriptions. - Transmit prescriptions to pharmacies electronically, increasing convenience for the patient and eliminating a major cause of medication errors, illegible handwriting. - Automatically link to a formulary to enable the prescriber to see whether the patient's insurer has approved the medication, or to find the lowest-cost drug in a class. Two-way electronic communication with formulary managers may also help reduce some of the administrative paperwork which is a barrier to optimal prescribing. - Automatically notify physicians of drug shortages, recalls or other urgent situations. In the U.S., e-prescribing is being actively encouraged. Since January 2009, the American Medicare system provides financial incentives for its physicians who adopt e-prescribing. In Canada adoption has been slow;xiv it is estimated that fewer than 10% of physicians e-prescribe. This may be due partly to the expense, and partly because of issues which remain to be addressed, such as: - How do we assure that the confidentiality of patients' health information, and of physicians' prescribing information, is protected? - What information should be shared with other health professionals? - What legally constitutes a "signature," or other means of authenticating a prescription? - Can we ensure that pharmacies as well as physicians' offices are equipped to receive electronic prescriptions? - Can we ensure that e-prescribing software is designed so as to be practical and user-friendly for physicians; for example, that pop-up warnings contain the most important and relevant information? - Can we ensure that e-prescribing protocols simplify a physician's workload rather than adding to it - for example, that they eliminate duplication of prescription writing? E-prescribing is in its early stages, and knowledge and policy in this area are developing rapidly. CMA will continue to study the issue in the coming years. Several provinces maintain electronic prescription databases and others are in development. For example, BC PharmNet provides drug-to-drug interaction checking and patient medication profiles to pharmacists, emergency rooms and physicians with controlled access. In most provinces and territories, medical associations are working with governments on standards to implement e-prescribing. Recommendation 7: The CMA, provincial/territorial medical associations and affiliates encourage governments to give active support to physicians in their transition to electronic prescribing, through a comprehensive strategy that includes financial support for acquisition of hardware and software, and dissemination of appropriate training and knowledge transfer tools. Recommendation 8: The CMA calls on governments to incorporate into electronic prescribing the following principles: - measures to ensure patients' privacy and confidentiality, as well as confidentiality of physician prescribing information - a link with a formulary, to provide physicians with best practice information including drug cost data - guidelines for data sharing among health professionals and others - standards for electronic signature that are not overly restrictive. Element 3: Programs by Payers Government drug plans and, increasingly, private insurance companies, have instituted programs to encourage prescription of certain drugs. Such programs, which are often motivated by the desire to control rising drug costs, can include the following: a) Formularies There are 18 public drug formularies in Canada managed by federal or provincial/territorial governments. These formularies often use various means to help control drug costs. For example, if a generic drug is available to treat a given condition, a payer may reimburse patients only for the generic rather than for brand-name equivalents. Or if several related drugs exist in the same class, a formulary could reimburse only for the lowest-priced drug in that class, as British Columbia's reference-based drug pricing (RDP) program does for five drug categories that contain several drugs with equal efficacy; if patients want to purchase a higher-priced drug they must pay the difference out of pocket. Such programs are not confined to Canada; Britain's National Health Services funds specific treatments only if recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) which assesses new drugs for efficacy and cost-effectiveness. Under New Zealand's PHARMAC system the government reimburses only for one drug in each class. A formulary's cost-control objectives can sometimes conflict with the goal of physician and patient to obtain the care they believe will be most optimal. For example, formulary rules limiting the length of chronic prescriptions can make it difficult for physicians to prescribe over the long term to patients who manage their conditions well. It is important that formulary rules be based on the best available scientific evidence. The ideal formulary will be designed to improve clinical care, optimize patients' health outcomes, promote patient safety, and reduce the administrative burden on the physician. Recommendation 9 The CMA recommends that formularies, in both the public and private sectors, simplify administrative requirements on patients and physicians, reducing paperwork to the minimum necessary to ensure optimal patient care. b) Prescribing incentives Sometimes, payers may provide incentives such as reward payments for physicians who prescribe in a desired way (for example, who prescribe more than a certain percentage of a given drug class as generics), or impose a financial penalty for physicians who do not exhibit the desired behaviour. Financial incentives to physicians to provide preventive care services have been used effectively but their effect on prescribing practices is only beginning to be evaluated. A study of U.K. prescribing incentive schemes concluded that reward payments may have contributed to cost control, but their effect on prescribing quality remained uncertain. xv CMA's ongoing Health Care Transformation initiative will provide decision makers with blueprint for a high-performing, patient-centered health care system. Among its other activities over the next few years, this initiative will be examining in greater detail the effect of pay-for-performance schemes on the quality of care in Canada. Element 4: Collaboration Among Health Care Providers No health professional is an island. Increasingly health care providers are working in collaborative teams to manage drug therapy and other forms of patient care. In such teams, for example, pharmacists may perform a variety of functions, such as reviewing patients' medication profiles to catch medication related problems such as inappropriate dosing, duplicate or unnecessary therapies; or managing long-term drug therapy for patients with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes. At their most effective, such collaborative arrangements could greatly improve drug therapy, and patient care in general, by allowing the team to draw on a common pool of expertise. However, if improperly implemented, they could lead to breakdown of communication and fragmentation of care. To ensure that collaborative management of a patient's drug therapy functions smoothly, it is important that clearly articulated arrangements be in place. CMA's position statement Achieving Patient-Centered Collaborative Care (2007), includes the following principles: - Patient-centered care. Patient care (including drug therapy) must be aligned around the values and needs of the patient. - Clear communication. Effective communication is essential to ensure safe and coordinated drug therapy and to ensure that the patient is receiving timely, clear and consistent messaging. For example, if a physician and pharmacist are both managing and monitoring a patient with asthma, it is essential that they notify each other if a change is made to a prescription, such as a new drug or a new dosage. Electronic health records have the potential to greatly improve communication among providers. - Clinical leader. CMA's position statement defines a clinical leader as "the individual who, based on his or her training, competency and experience, is best able to synthesize and interpret the evidence and data provided by the patient and the team, make a differential diagnosis and deliver comprehensive care for the patient." In most cases the physician, by virtue of training, knowledge, background and patient relationship, is best positioned to assume this role. Recommendation 10: The CMA recommends that formalized and clearly articulated collaborative arrangements be in place for practitioners who jointly manage a patient's drug therapy. The CMA, recognizing the need for and value of collaboration in the management of drug therapy, will continue to explore and encourage the most effective models for collaborative practice among health professionals. Element 5: Impartial, Evidence-based Information for Patients Canadians have the right to accurate, reliable information on prescription drugs and their uses, so that they can become knowledgeable partners in their care. A good deal of information is already available to patients, and there are ways in which it could be improved and made more accessible and relevant. One way would be to improve its clarity and readability, to address the needs of the estimated 6 in 10 Canadians who lack the health literacy necessary to properly manage their health and engage in preventive practices.xvi Another way would be to provide more information from impartial sources, to reduce the impact of direct-to-consumer advertising. The CMA believes that in general, brand specific advertising is a less than optimal way of providing drug information, and that the laws currently banning direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising in Canada should remain in effect, and tightened to eliminate existing loopholes. Physicians and other health care providers can also play an important role in providing patients with guidance and with accurate information on the medications they take. CMA and the Canadian Pharmacists Association have collaborated with Canada's Research-based Drug Companies (Rx&D) to produce a pamphlet called "Knowledge is the Best Medicine" which provides consumers with advice on safe medication use, and guidance on how to interact effectively with their physician or pharmacist. Recommendation 11: The CMA calls on governments to fund and facilitate the development and provision of unbiased, up-to-date, practical information to consumers on prescription drugs and their appropriate use, and support physicians and pharmacists in disseminating this information to their patients. Recommendation 12: The CMA calls on the Government of Canada to continue to enforce the current ban on direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising in Canada, and close the loopholes that currently allow a limited amount of drug promotion. Element 6: Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Drug development is an ongoing process, and the evaluation of drugs and their prescribing should be ongoing as well. Canada already supports a certain amount of research activity in this area. For example, Health Canada funds the Canadian Optimal Medication Prescribing and Utilization Service (COMPUS), a collaborative, pan-Canadian service to identify and promote optimal drug therapy. COMPUS collects and evaluates relevant existing evidence, and provides advice, tools, and strategies to implement and support the adoption of optimal drug therapy. COMPUS has produced, or is producing, evidence-based recommendations for prescribing proton pump inhibitors and drugs for diabetes management. COMPUS has established links to university-based providers of CME, and with academic detailing groups, who help to disseminate its recommendations and materials. It also manages the Rx for Change database previously mentioned. The federal government has recently established and funded a national Drug Safety and Effectiveness Network. This network will link researchers to help coordinate and fund independent research on the risks and benefits of drugs that are on the market. We hope that this signifies a long-term commitment on the country's part to optimal drug therapy. CMA believes Canada should build on this activity by encouraging research on an ongoing basis on: - prescribing guidelines and what drugs work best for which conditions - dissemination of prescribing information - what interventions most effectively influence practice? - effect of changes in prescribing on patient health outcomes, and on utilization of health services; - the safety and effectiveness of drugs, building on what currently exists (such as Health Canada's system for reporting adverse drug reactions and communicating drug safety advisories), so that information derived from post-market surveillance quickly reaches health care providers and patients and becomes part of our body of knowledge. Since the great majority of prescriptions in Canada are written by physicians, it is essential that the medical community participate actively in evaluation of prescribing practices, and disseminating and implementing the results of research. Recommendation 13: The CMA calls on those who fund and produce research on drug safety and effectiveness, prescribing guidelines and programs to enhance prescribing practices, to include physicians and medical organizations meaningfully in this activity. 5 Conclusion It is likely that drug therapy will continue to increase in importance as a component of patient care and that it will continue to become more complex and, in many cases, more costly. As a result, we expect that health professionals and the Canadian public will continue to need readily available and up-to-date information on prescription drugs: the availability of new products; the results of safety and effectiveness studies; and advice on how to prescribe and take these medications for the best health outcome. It is also likely that electronic prescribing systems, formularies and other monitoring methods will continue to be developed, and that these will influence physicians' prescribing habits. To deliver evidence-based prescribing information effectively, and encourage its smooth incorporation into clinical practice, Canada needs a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary strategy in which physicians and other health care providers, governments, patients, industry and other stakeholders work together to encourage and support optimal prescribing, in the interest of achieving the best possible health for Canadians with the most effective use of resources. The CMA is ready to join with others in developing and implementing such a strategy, in the hope that eventually, all patients will receive the prescription drugs they need, when they need them. Appendix 1 A core undergraduate curriculum for prescribers in therapeutics Core knowledge and understanding Basic pharmacology Clinical pharmacokinetics Monitoring drug therapy Adverse drug reactions Drug interactions Medication errors Poisoned patients Prescribing for patients with special requirements (e.g., the elderly, children, women of childbearing potential, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and patients with renal or liver disease) Legal aspects of prescribing drugs Developing new drugs Medicines management Ethics of prescribing Commonly used drugs Common therapeutic problems Complementary and alternative medicine Integration of therapeutics into understanding of disease management. Core skills Taking a drug history Prescription writing Drug administration Prescribing drugs in special groups Prescribing drugs to relieve pain and distress Adverse drug reactions and interactions Drug allergy Clinical pharmacokinetics Monitoring drug therapy Analysing new evidence Obtaining accurate objective information to support safe and effective prescribing Obtaining informed consent to treatment Core attitudes A rational approach to prescribing and therapeutics Risk-benefit analysis Recognizing the responsibilities of a physician as part of the prescribing community Recognizing personal limitations in knowledge Responding to the future SOURCE: Maxwell S, Walley T. Teaching safe and effective prescribing in UK medical schools: a core curriculum for tomorrow's doctors. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2003;55:496-503.100. Cited in Innovating For Health: Patients, physicians, the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS. A report from the Royal College of Physicians (UK) February 2009 References i Metge C, Sketris I. "Pharmaceutical Policy." In MacKinnon NJ, ed. Safe and Effective: the Eight Essential Elements of an Optimal Medication Use System. Canadian Pharmacists Association, 2007. ii Canadian Institute for Health Information. Drug Expenditure in Canada, 1985 to 2009. Released April 2010. Accessed at https://secure.cihi.ca/estore/productFamily.htm?locale=en&pf=PFC1428&lang=en&media=0. iii Wang E, Einarson T, Kellner J, Conly. Antibiotic prescribing for Canadian preschool children: evidence of overprescribing for viral respiratory infections. Clin Infect Dis. 1999; 29(1):155-60. iv Petrella R, Merikle E, Jones J. Prevalence and treatment of dyslipidemia in Canadian primary care: a retrospective cohort analysis. Clin Ther. 2007; 29(4):742-50. v Dr. Jean Gray, speaking at the Health Council of Canada symposium, "Safe and Sound: Optimizing Prescribing Behaviours"; Montreal, June 2007 vi Steinman MA, Baron RB. Is continuing medical education a drug promotion tool? Yes. Can Fam Phys 2007: 53(10); 1650-53. vii Angell M. Industry-sponsored clinical research: a broken system. JAMA 2008: 300 (Sept. 3); 1069-1071. viii Mintzes B, Barer ML, Kravitz RL et al. Influence of direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising and patients' requests on prescribing decisions: a two-site cross-sectional survey. BMJ 2002; 324 (2 February): 278-279. ix "Should Canada allow direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs?" (Debate) Can Fam PhysicianVol. 55, No. 2, February 2009, pp.130 - 133. x Valiyeva E, Herrmann M, Rochon PA. Effect of regulatory warnings on antipsychotic prescription rates among elderly patients with dementia: a population-based time series analysis. Can Med Assoc J 2008; 179(5) doi 10.1503. xi Health Council of Canada. "A commentary on The National Pharmaceuticals Strategy: a Prescription Unfilled." (January 2009) xii Cook DA, Levinson AJ, Garside S et al. Internet-based learning in the health professions: a meta-analysis. JAMA 2008; 300 (10): 1181-1196. xiii Rx for Change database; accessed at http://www.acmts.ca/index.php/en/compus/optimal-ther-resources/interventions. xiv Canadian Medical Association. "Information technology and health care in Canada: 2008 status report." xv Ashworth M, Lee R, Gray H et al. How are primary care organizations using financial incentives to influence prescribing? J Public Health 2004: 26(1); doi: 10.1093. xvi Canadian Council on Learning. Health literacy in Canada: initial results from the International Adult Literacy and Health Skills Survey (September 2007). Accessed at http://www.ccl-cca.ca/ccl/Reports/HealthLiteracy/HealthLiteracy2007.html.
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A Prescription for SUFA : CMA Submission to the F/P/T Ministerial Council on Social Policy Renewal

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1961
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-10-18
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-10-18
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
It has been over three years since the Social Union Framework Agreement (SUFA) was signed by the federal and provincial/territorial governments, with the exception of Quebec. At the time, it was heralded as an important breakthrough in federal-provincial relations that would clear the way for greater intergovernmental cooperation on pressing social policy issues such as health care renewal. Functional federalism is essential to achieving social policy objectives that will be of benefit to Canadians from coast to coast. While SUFA may not be perfect, it is better than the alternative of federal-provincial paralysis and dysfunction. And as SUFA acknowledges, Canada’s social union is about more that how governments relate to each other: it is about how governments can and should work with external stakeholders and individual Canadians to improve the social policies and programs. The health sector is an important test case for SUFA. It is the most cherished of Canada’s social programs. Canadians want and expect their governments to work together to improve the health care system and ensure its future sustainability. Ironically, it is also the area where government intergovernmental discord has been the greatest. On the eve of the final report of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, it is timely to reflect on SUFA and its role in the renewal of Canada’s health system. SUFA and the Health Sector – Strengths and Weaknesses The attached table provides a summary of the key elements of SUFA and the CMA’s assessment of how well SUFA provisions have been applied in the health sector. On the positive side, the health sector has fared relatively well in the area of mobility within Canada. Physicians and other regulated health care providers generally enjoy a high degree of mobility. Portability of hospital and medical benefits is largely ensured through interprovincial eligibility and portability agreements. There are, however, two areas of concern. First, there is the longstanding failure to resolve the non-portability of medical benefits for Quebec residents. Second, there is growing disparity in coverage for services that are currently not subject to national standards under the Canada Health Act, particularly prescription drugs and home care. In the area of dispute avoidance and resolution, governments have agreed to a formal process to address concerns with the Canada Health Act. This is a positive step, though few details have been made public. The real test will be whether this new process accelerates the resolution of non-compliance issues (most of which, as the Auditor-General recently pointed out, have remained unresolved for five years or longer), and whether the federal government will have the political will to levy discretionary penalties for non-compliance. There has also been progress on public accountability and transparency as governments have begun reporting results in 14 health indicator areas pursuant to the September 2000 health accord. The CMA is disappointed, however, that governments did not fulfil their pledge to involve stakeholders at all levels in the development of these indicators. Moreover, governments have short-changed Canadians by not providing them with a national roll-up of indicators that would facilitate comparisons across jurisdictions. Looking to the future, it will be critical to put in place a process that moves from benchmarks (indicators) to the bedside (best practices, better outcomes). This must be done in collaboration with health care researchers, providers and health managers—those individuals who understand the importance of taking research and importing it into practice. Clinical researchers across the country are doing this work and must to be supported. Overshadowing these relative successes in the first three years of the Social Union Framework Agreement are three key challenges that must be addressed: * inadequate institutional mechanisms to improve accountability across the system * failure to reduce uncertainty about what the health system will deliver, now and into the future * resistance on the part of governments to engage stakeholders in a true partnership for health system renewal The CMA is concerned that if these fundamental weaknesses are not addressed, they will undermine future attempts to renew Canada’s health system. Improving accountability With the adoption of SUFA, governments have significantly increased emphasis on performance measurement and public reporting. While this is a positive development, it also has the potential to lead towards information overload and paralysis, unless two critical elements are addressed. First, there is a need for a clear accountability framework that sets out the roles, rights and responsibilities of all key players in Canada’s health system: patients, health care providers and governments. This, in turn, requires the creation of a credible arm’s length institution to monitor compliance with this framework and rise above the fray to give Canadians the straight goods on health care. One has to look no further that the recent rekindling of the so-called “shares debate” between the federal and provincial governments as an example of why these changes are necessary. Reducing uncertainty Over the past decade, Canada’s health system has been plagued by an escalating crisis of uncertainty. Patients have faced increasing uncertainty about the accessibility and timeliness of essential health care services. Health care providers have seen working conditions deteriorate. Employers and private insurers have seen their contribution to funding health services increase unpredictably as governments have scaled back their funding commitments. Furthermore, provincial and territorial governments have had to contend with an unstable federal funding partner. Canadians deserve better. They need more certainty that their public health system will care for them when they need it most. They need more transparency from governments about “what’s in” and “what’s out” in terms of public or private coverage. They need their governments to act on their SUFA undertaking to make service commitments for social programs publicly available such as establishing standards for acceptable waiting times for health care. And they need governments to follow through with their SUFA commitment to ensure stable and adequate funding for the health system and other social programs. Fostering real partnerships In the health care field, deliberations and agreements have taken place behind closed doors and governments have discounted the role that non-governmental organizations and citizens should play in decision-making. It is these very providers and patients who are expected to implement and live with the results of such cloistered decision-making. The consequences of this systematic exclusion are all too evident in the current critical and growing shortages of physicians, nurses and other health professionals. If we are to achieve the vision of a sustainable Medicare program, it is critical that governments come clean on their SUFA commitment to work in partnership with stakeholders and ensure opportunities for meaningful input into social policies and programs. CMA’s Prescription for Sustainability – Building on SUFA The Social Union Framework Agreement has created the necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for health system renewal. It has codified the emerging consensus on federal-provincial relations and has clarified the "rules of the game". However, it is an enabling framework that is of limited value in the health sector unless it is given life through institutional mechanisms that establish enduring partnerships not just between governments, but between governments health care providers, and patients. In its final submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada entitled “Prescription for Sustainability”, the CMA proposes the implementation of three integrated “pillars of sustainability” that together would improve accountability and transparency in the system: a Canadian Health Charter, a Canadian Health Commission, and federal legislative renewal. Canadian Health Charter A Canadian Health Charter would clearly articulate a national health policy that sets out our collective understanding of Medicare and the rights and mutual obligations of individual Canadians, health care providers, and governments. It would also underline governments’ shared commitment to ensuring that Canadians will have access to quality health care within an acceptable time frame. The existence of such a Charter would ensure that a rational, evidence-based, and collaborative approach to managing and modernizing Canada’s health system is being followed. Canadian Health Commission In conjunction with the Canadian Health Charter, a permanent, independent Canadian Health Commission would be created to promote accountability and transparency within the system. It would have a mandate to monitor compliance with and measure progress towards Charter provisions, report to Canadians on the performance of the health care system, and provide ongoing advice and guidance to the Conference on Federal-Provincial-Territorial ministers on key national health care issues. Recognizing the shared federal and provincial/territorial obligations to the health care system, one of the main purposes of the Canadian Health Charter is to reinforce the national character of the health system. Federal legislative renewal Finally, the CMA’s prescription calls for the federal government to make significant commitments in three areas: 1) a review of the Canada Health Act, 2) changes to the federal transfers to provinces and territories to provide increased and more targeted support for health care, and 3) a review of federal tax legislation to realign tax instruments with health policy goals. While these three “pillars” will address the broader structural and procedural problems facing Canada’s health care system, there is many other changes required to meet specific needs within the system in the short to medium term. The CMA’s Prescription for Sustainability provides specific recommendations in the following key areas: * Defining the publicly-funded health system (e.g. a more rational and transparent approach to defining core services, a “safety valve” if the public system fails to deliver, and increased attention to public health and Aboriginal health) * Investing in the health care system (e.g. human resources, capital infrastructure, surge capacity to deal with emergencies, information technology, and research and innovation) * Organization and delivery of services (e.g. consideration of the full continuum of care, physician compensation, rural health, and the role of the private sector, the voluntary sector and informal caregivers) Conclusion On balance, the Social Union Framework Agreement has been a positive step forward for social policy in Canada, though its potential is far from being fully realized. The CMA’s proposal for a Canadian Health Charter, a Canadian Health Commission and federal legislative review entail significant changes to the governance of Canada’s health system. These changes would be consistent with the Social Union Framework Agreement and would help “turn the corner” from debate to action on health system renewal. The early, ongoing and meaningful engagement of health care providers is the sine qua non of securing the long-term sustainability of Canada’s health system. Canada’s health professionals, who have the most to contribute, and next to patients – who have the most at stake – must be at the table when the future of health and health care is being discussed. The CMA’s Assessment of the Social Union Framework Agreement ANNEX [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] SUFA provisions CMA assessment Principles 1. All Canadians to be treated with fairness and equity 2. Promote equality of opportunity for all Canadians 3. Respect for the equality, rights and dignity of all Canadian women and men and their diverse needs 4. Ensure access for all Canadians to essential social programs and services of reasonably comparable quality 5. Provide appropriate assistance to those in need 6. Respect the principles of Medicare: comprehensiveness, universality, portability, public administration and accessibility 7. Promote the full and active participation of all Canadians in Canada’s economic and social life 8. Work in partnership with stakeholders and ensure opportunities for meaningful input into social policies and programs 9. Ensure adequate, affordable, stable and sustainable funding for social programs 10. Respect Aboriginal treaties and rights [#4] Progress towards the objective of ensuring access to essential health services of reasonably comparable quality is difficult to assess. First, there is no agreed-upon definition of essential health services. Second there the development of indicators and benchmarks of health care quality is still in its infancy. However, the CMA is very concerned that the system is not headed in the right direction, with growing shortages of physicians, nurses and other health care providers. According to Statistics Canada’s recently released survey on access to health care services, an estimated 4.3 million Canadians reported difficulties accessing first contact services and approximately 1.4 million Canadians reported difficulties accessing specialized services. [#6]Although there is broad support for the five principles of Medicare, there continue to be a number of longstanding violations of Canada Health Act that are not being addressed, including the portability of medical benefits for Quebec residents. The emergence of privately-owned clinics that charge patients for medically-necessary MRI scans is also cause for concern. [#8] There is no formal, ongoing mechanism for input from stakeholders and the individual Canadians in debates about national health policy issues. (See also #17 below). [#9] Ensuring adequate, affordable, and stable funding for Canada’s health system is essential to its long-term sustainability. During the 1990s, billions of dollars were siphoned out of the system to eliminate government deficits. To put Medicare back on a sustainable path, governments must make long-term funding commitments to meet the health care needs of Canadians. The CMA has recommended that the federal government should significantly increase its financial contribution to restore the federal-provincial partnership in health care, and increase accountability and transparency through a new earmarked health transfer. Mobility within Canada 11. Removal of residency-based policies governing access to social services 12. Compliance with the mobility provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade [#11] Residency-based policies are generally not an issue for physician and hospital services, where inter-provincial portability is guaranteed through reciprocal billing arrangements. As noted above, however, the portability of medical benefits for many Quebec residents is limited because the province only reimburses out-of-province services at home-province (as opposed to host-province) rates. [#12] Regulatory authorities initiated work towards meeting the obligations of the Labour Mobility Chapter of the Agreement on Internal Trade in fall 1999. A Mutual Recognition Agreement has been developed and endorsed by all physician licensing authorities. Public accountability & transparency 13. Performance measurement and public reporting 14. Development of comparable indicators to measure progress 15. Public recognition of roles and contributions of governments 16. Use funds transferred from another order of government for purposes agreed and pass on increases to residents 17. Ensure effective mechanisms for Canadians to participate in developing social priorities and reviewing outcomes 18. Make eligibility criteria and service commitments for social programs publicly available 19. Have mechanisms in place to appeal unfair administrative practices 20. Report publicly on appeals and complaints [#13-14] Pursuant to the September 2000 Health Accord, the federal government and provinces have developed common health indicators in 14 areas and have released a first slate of reports. However, the usefulness of these reports is hampered by missing data elements on quality of care (access and waiting times in particular) and the absence of a national roll-up to facilitate inter-provincial comparisons. [#15] Continuing federal-provincial bickering about shares of health funding makes it clear that this provision is not being met. [#16] The CMA’s analysis of the Medical Equipment Fund found that incremental spending by provinces on medical technology accounted for only 60% of the $500 million transferred by the federal government for this purpose. [#17] There is no mechanism in place to ensure ongoing input from Canadians and health care providers in national health policy development. The CMA has recommended the creation of a Canadian Health Commission, with representation from the public and stakeholders to provide advice and input to governments on key national health policy issues. [#18] Although there have been proposals to this effect in a couple of provinces, governments currently do not make explicit commitments about the quality and accessibility of health services. In order to reduce the uncertainty Canadians are feeling with respect to Medicare, the CMA has recommended the creation of a Canadian Health Charter that would set out the rights and responsibilities of patients, health care providers and governments. In particular, the health charter would require all governments to set out care guarantees for timely access to health services based on the best available evidence. [#19-20] The Auditor-General recently reported that Health Canada provides inadequate reporting on the extent of compliance with the Canada Health Act. Governments working in partnership 21. Governments to undertake joint planning and information sharing, and work together to identify priorities for collaborative action 22. Governments to collaborate on implementation of joint priorities when this would result in more effective and efficient service to Canadians. 23. Advance notice prior to implementation of a major policy or program change that will substantially affect another government 24. Offer to consult prior to implementing new social policies and programs that are likely to substantially affect other governments. 25. For any new Canada-wide social initiative, arrangements made with one province/territory will be made available to all provinces/territories. 26. Governments will work with the Aboriginal peoples of Canada to find practical solutions to address their pressing needs [#21-25] The requirement for governments to work together collaboratively is perhaps the most important part of SUFA, yet there it is impossible for organizations and individuals outside of government to assess the degree to which these provisions have been met. This so-called “black box of executive federalism” is not serving Canadians well. In the health sector, there are too many examples of governments developing policy and making decisions with little or no input from those who will ultimately have to implement change. To achieve a true social union, the tenets of good collaborative working relationships – joint planning, advance notice and consultation prior to implementation – must be extended beyond the ambit of federal-provincial decision-making. The CMA’s proposal for a Canadian Health Commission would go some distance in addressing these concerns. A key part of its mandate would be to bring the perspective of health providers and patients into national health policy deliberations and decision-making. Federal spending power 27. Federal government to consult with P/T governments at least one year prior to renewal or significant funding changes in social transfers 28. New Canada-wide initiatives supported by transfers to provinces subject to: a) collaborative approach to identify Canada wide objectives and priorities b) Agreement of a majority of provincial governments c) Provincial discretion to determine detailed design to meet agreed objectives d) Provincial freedom to reinvest funding in related area if objectives are already met e) Jointly developed accountability framework 29. For new Canada-wide initiatives funded through direct transfers to individuals or organizations, federal government to provide 3-months notice and offer to consult [#27-28] There have been three new Canada-wide health initiatives supported by the federal spending power: the $500M Medical Equipment Fund, the $800 Primary Health Care Transition Fund and the $500M fund for health information technology. The Medical Equipment Fund was created to respond to a genuine need for more modern diagnostic and treatment equipment. However, objectives were vague, money was transferred with no strings attached, and there was no accountability framework. The result, as the CMA’s analysis has shown, is that a significant portion of the funding did not reach its destination. The jury is still out in the case of the Primary Care Transition Fund. Delivery of this program through normal government machinery will entail a higher degree of accountability than in the case of the Medical Equipment Fund. However, objectives of this initiative may be too broad to have a significant steering effect on the system as a whole. Canada Infoway Inc. is an arm’s length body created by the federal government to disburse the $500M in health information technology funding. While this model has the advantage of being less politicized than government-run programs; accountability to Parliament and to Canadians is weaker. Dispute avoidance & resolution 30. Governments committed to working together and avoiding disputes 31. Sector negotiations to resolve disputes based on joint fact-finding, including the use of a third party 32. Any government can require a decision to be reviewed one year after it enters into effect 33. Governments will report publicly on an annual basis on the nature of intergovernmental disputes and their resolution [#30-33] Federal and provincial governments have agreed to a formal dispute avoidance and resolution process under the Canada Health Act. The Canadian Health Commission recommended by the CMA could play a useful role as an independent fact-finder. Review of SUFA 34. By the end of the 3rd year, governments will jointly undertake a full review of the Agreement and its implementation. This review will ensure significant opportunities for input and feedback from Canadians and all interested parties, including social policy experts, the private sector and voluntary organizations. [#34] Governments have taken a minimalist approach to the SUFA review by opting for an internet-based consultation and closed meetings with invited external representatives. This approach is not sufficient. Future reviews should be more inclusive of all stakeholders. [TABLE END]
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Principles for providing information about prescription drugs to consumers

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy189
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2003-03-01
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2003-03-01
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
Principles For Providing Information About Prescription Drugs To Consumers Approved by the CMA Board of Directors, March 2003 Since the late 1990's expenditures on direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs in the United States have increased many-fold. Though U.S.-style DTCA is not legal in Canada1, it reaches Canadians through cross-border transmission of print and broadcast media, and through the Internet. It is believed to have affected drug sales and patient behaviour in Canada. Other therapeutic products, such as vaccines and diagnostic tests, are also being marketed directly to the public. Proponents of DTCA argue that they are providing consumers with much-needed information on drugs and the conditions they treat. Others argue that the underlying intent of such advertising is to increase revenue or market share, and that it therefore cannot be interpreted as unbiased information. The CMA believes that consumers have a right to accurate information on prescription medications and other therapeutic interventions, to enable them to make informed decisions about their own health. This information is especially necessary as more and more Canadians live with chronic conditions, and as we anticipate the availability of new products that may accompany the "biological revolution", e.g. gene therapies. The CMA recommends a review of current mechanisms, including mass media communications, for providing this information to the public. CMA believes that consumer information on prescription drugs should be provided according to the following principles. 2 Principle #1: The Goal is Good Health The ultimate measure of the effectiveness of consumer drug information should be its impact on the health and well-being of Canadians and the quality of health care. Principle #2: Ready Access Canadians should have ready access to credible, high-quality information about prescription drugs. The primary purpose of this information should be education; sales of drugs must not be a concern to the originator. Principle #3: Patient Involvement Consumer drug information should help Canadians make informed decisions regarding management of their health, and facilitate informed discussion with their physicians and other health professionals. CMA encourages Canadians to become educated about their own health and health care, and to appraise health information critically. Principle #4: Evidence-Based Content Consumer drug information should be evidence based, using generally accepted prescribing guidelines as a source where available. Principle #5: Appropriate Information Consumer drug information should be based as much as possible on drug classes and use of generic names; if discussing brand-name drugs the discussion should not be limited to a single specific brand, and brand names should always be preceded by generic names. It should provide information on the following: * indications for use of the drug * contraindications * side effects * relative cost. In addition, consumer drug information should discuss the drug in the context of overall management of the condition for which it is indicated (for example, information about other therapies, lifestyle management and coping strategies). Principle #6: Objectivity of Information Sources Consumer drug information should be provided in such a way as to minimize the impact of vested commercial interests on the information content. Possible sources include health care providers, or independent research agencies. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and patient or consumer groups can be valuable partners in this process but must not be the sole providers of information. Federal and provincial/territorial governments should provide appropriate sustaining support for the development and maintenance of up-to-date consumer drug information. Principle #7: Endorsement/ Accreditation Consumer drug information should be endorsed or accredited by a reputable and unbiased body. Information that is provided to the public through mass media channels should be pre-cleared by an independent board. Principle #8: Monitoring and Revision Consumer drug information should be continually monitored to ensure that it correctly reflects current evidence, and updated when research findings dictate. Principle #9: Physicians as Partners Consumer drug information should support and encourage open patient-physician communication, so that the resulting plan of care, including drug therapy, is mutually satisfactory. Physicians play a vital role in working with patients and other health-care providers to achieve optimal drug therapy, not only through writing prescriptions but through discussing proposed drugs and their use in the context of the overall management of the patient's condition. In addition, physicians and other health care providers, and their associations, can play a valuable part in disseminating drug and other health information to the public. Principle #10: Research and Evaluation Ongoing research should be conducted into the impact of drug information and DTCA on the health care system, with particular emphasis on its effect on appropriateness of prescribing, and on health outcomes. 1 DTCA is not legal in Canada, except for notification of price, quantity and the name of the drug. However, "information-seeking" advertisements for prescription drugs, which may provide the name of the drug without mentioning its indications, or announce that treatments are available for specific indications without mentioning drugs by name, have appeared in Canadian mass media. 2 Though the paper applies primarily to prescription drug information, its principles are also applicable to health information in general.
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Psycho-active substances and the operation of motor vehicles and industrial equipment

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy781
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
1973-06-16
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC73-50
That the membership of the Canadian Medical Association clearly inform its patients, and the general public at large, of the hazards associated with the operation of motor vehicles, industrial equipment, etc., while under the influence of psycho-active substances, especially alcohol and antihistamines, and particularly the combination of such substances.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
1973-06-16
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC73-50
That the membership of the Canadian Medical Association clearly inform its patients, and the general public at large, of the hazards associated with the operation of motor vehicles, industrial equipment, etc., while under the influence of psycho-active substances, especially alcohol and antihistamines, and particularly the combination of such substances.
Text
That the membership of the Canadian Medical Association clearly inform its patients, and the general public at large, of the hazards associated with the operation of motor vehicles, industrial equipment, etc., while under the influence of psycho-active substances, especially alcohol and antihistamines, and particularly the combination of such substances.
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A Public Health Perspective on Cannabis and Other Illegal Drugs : CMA Submission to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1968
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-03-11
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-03-11
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
Cannabis has adverse effects on the personal health of Canadians and the well-being of society. In making this submission to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) wishes to make it clear that any change to the criminal status of cannabis must be done so with the recognition that cannabis is an addictive substance and that addiction is a disease. The CMA believes that the government must take a broad public health policy approach to address cannabis use. Focusing on the decriminalization issue alone is inadequate to deal with the complexity of the problem. Changes to the criminal law affecting cannabis must not promote normalization of its use, and must be tied to a national drug strategy that promotes awareness and prevention, and provides for comprehensive treatment. Under such a multidimensional approach the CMA would endorse decriminalization. In this document, we primarily focus on the health effects of cannabis use. However, we also present information and recommendations on the use of other illegal drugs. While we understand that this goes beyond the intended scope of the Senate Committee's study, this information is important to the development of comprehensive policy, which we believe is required. We also recognize and welcome the fact that many of the CMA's recommendations will require a closer working relationship among health providers, justice officials and law enforcement. The CMA's recommendations are: Section 1: Illegal Drugs 1. A National Drug Strategy: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive national drug strategy on the non-medical use of drugs. 2. Redistribution of Resources: The vast majority of resources dedicated to combating illegal drugs are directed towards law enforcement activities. Government needs to re-balance this distribution and allocate a greater proportion of these resources to drug treatment, prevention, and harm reduction programs. Law enforcement activities should target the distribution and production of illegal drugs. 3. Addiction is a Disease: Addiction should be regarded as a disease and therefore, individuals suffering with drug dependency should be diverted, whenever possible, from the criminal justice system to treatment and rehabilitation. Additionally, the stigma associated with addiction needs to be addressed as part of a comprehensive education strategy. 4. Increased Research: All governments commit to more research on the cause, effects and treatment of addiction. Further research on the long- term health effects associated with chronic cannabis use is specifically required. Section 2: Cannabis 1. National Cannabis Cessation Program: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive program to minimize cannabis use. This should include, but not be limited to: * Education and awareness raising of the potential harms of cannabis use including risks associated with use in pregnancy; use by those with mental illness; chronic respiratory problems; and chronic heavy use; * Strategies to prevent early use in adolescence; and, * Availability of assessment, counselling and treatment services for those experiencing adverse effects of heavy use or dependence. 2. Driving Under the Influence Prevention Policy: The CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education constitute the most effective approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports a similar multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. 3. Decriminalization: The severity of punishment for simple possession and personal use of cannabis should be reduced with the removal of criminal sanctions. The CMA believes that resources currently devoted to combating simple marijuana possession through the criminal law could be diverted to public health strategies, particularly for youth. To the degree that having a criminal record limits employment prospects the impact on health status is profound. Poorer employment prospects lead to poorer health. Use of a civil violation, such as a fine, is a potential alternative. However, decriminalization should only be pursued as part of a comprehensive national illegal drug strategy that would include a cannabis cessation program. 4. Monitoring and Evaluation: Any changes need to be gradual to protect against any potential harm. In addition, changes to the criminal law in connection with cannabis, should be rigorously monitored and evaluated for their impact. This document also contains the policies and recommendations of the CMA affiliated association that has specific expertise in the field of substance use disorders the, Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM). In addition, for an even broader health-sector perspective, the CMA has attached information on the policy positions of other key medical organizations from Canada and the United States in regard to decriminalization of cannabis. A PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE ON CANNABIS AND OTHER ILLEGAL DRUGS INTRODUCTION The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to participate in the deliberations of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs. This document was developed by the CMA's new Office for Public Health in consultation with our Affiliate Societies, in particular the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine, and our 12 provincial and territorial divisions. The use of illegal drugs and relevant policies is an extremely broad, multi-disciplinary and at times, controversial subject. Considering the breadth of this subject, the limited time-lines and the areas of particular interest of the Committee, this document will focus on the following: * What are the known health effects of cannabis and other illegal drugs? * What experience has there been with the decriminalization of cannabis? * What has been the impact of law enforcement on illegal drug use? * What changes need to be considered in Canada's approach to illegal drug use including the potential decriminalization of drugs? In addition to the above, this document will provide an overview of the relevant policy position statements and recommendations regarding cannabis and drug policy from other key medical organizations from both Canada and the United States. PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE ON DRUG USE There are many different perspectives on the use of drugs including ethical and moral frameworks. This paper is prepared from a public health perspective where minimizing any harms associated with use is of primary concern. 1 This requires consideration of health issues related not only to the individual user and the drug being used, but also the key social factors associated with use. Drug use is a complex behaviour that is influenced by many factors. It is not possible to identify a single cause for drug use, nor will the set of contributing factors be the same among different drug users and populations. Public health objectives will vary depending upon the circumstances: preventing drug use in those who have not initiated use (e.g. pre-teens); avoiding use in circumstances associated with a risk of adverse outcomes (e.g. drug use and driving motor vehicle); assisting those who wish to stop using the drug (e.g. treatment, rehabilitation); and assisting those who intend to continue to use the drug to do so in such a manner as to reduce the risk of adverse effects (e.g. needle exchange program to reduce risk of HIV). To address this complexity, what is required is a public health strategy to combat drug use utilizing a comprehensive, multi-component approach. Public health strategies focus on the various predisposing, enabling, and re-enforcing factors that influence healthy behaviours and choices. 2 These sets of factors recognize the many influences upon individual behaviour including: individual and social attitudes, beliefs and values; skills; support, self-efficacy and re-enforcement. Public health actions can be grouped into the following major categories: 3 * Developing Personal Skills - education and skill-building (e.g. mass media, skill development to resist peer pressure, thinking skills); * Healthy Public Policy - policies, formal and informal that support health (e.g. school policy, substance use and driving, harm reduction initiatives); * Creating Supportive Environments - social and physical environments (e.g. adequate housing and food, community safety, non-chemical coping mechanisms); * Strengthen Community Action - community involvement in finding solutions (e.g. self-help, social support, community participation); * Health Services - range of services to meet needs (e.g. prevention, assessment, early intervention, treatment, rehabilitation, harm-reduction initiatives). This framework is useful in identifying the range of program components that need to be considered. Relative emphasis between components and the specific interventions selected will vary depending upon the target population (e.g. school students vs. injection drug users). The key is a balanced approach that will influence the factors contributing to less healthy behaviours with support for behaviour change and maintenance. CANNABIS Several commissions and task forces, in Canada and elsewhere, have addressed the issue of how to deal with cannabis use, although frequently their recommendations have not been implemented. 4, 5, 6 It has been suggested that "cannabis is a political football that governments continually duck...(but that) like a football, it bounces back." 7 This section of the paper will review current Canadian levels of use, health effects, law enforcement issues, and experience with decriminalization in other jurisdictions. Current Use The Ontario Student Drug Use Survey is conducted every two years in grades 7, 9, 11, and 13, although in 1999 all grades from 7-13 were surveyed. Use of cannabis within the preceding year increased from 11.7% of students in 1991, to 29.2% in 1999. 8 Increases were also observed for several other drugs during the same time period (tobacco, alcohol, glue, other solvents, hallucinogens, cocaine, PCP, and ecstasy). Increases in adolescent drug use have also been observed in the US, Europe and Australia through the 1990s. Compared with earlier cohorts, fewer students in 1999 reported early onset of cannabis use (before grade 7) compared with similarly aged students in 1997 and 1981. Past year drug use of cannabis, alcohol and tobacco by grade year is shown in Table 1. The proportion of students who have used one of these drugs increases with increasing grade level. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1 - Past Year Drug Use (%) by Grade Level, Ontario Students, 1999 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Alcohol 39.7 53.7 63.1 74.9 82.0 84.6 83.0 Tobacco 7.4 17.8 27.8 37.4 41.7 38.6 38.0 Cannabis 3.6 14.9 25.5 36.4 48.1 39.4 43.3 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey 9 [TABLE END] The last national survey of illicit drug use in Canada was conducted in 1994. 10 At that time, 23% of Canadians, aged 15 and over, reported having used cannabis more than once during their lifetime with 7% having used it within the preceding year. Current use is much more common in those under the age of 25 and diminishes significantly with age, (Table 2). Most cannabis use is sporadic with the majority of adult and adolescent users using it less than once a week. 11 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 2 - Lifetime and Current Use of Cannabis in Canada, 1994 Age Lifetime Use (%) Current Use (%) (past 12 months) 15-17 30 24.0 18-19 32.9 23.8 20-24 37.7 19.0 25-34 38.2 9.6 35-44 32.9 5.7 45-54 14.8 1.4 55-64 3.7 - 65+ 0.8 - Canada's Alcohol and Other Drugs Survey: 1994 [TABLE END] Health Effects Our understanding of the health effects of cannabis continues to evolve. Hall summarizes the effects into acute and chronic effects and whether these are probable or possible (Table 3). 12 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 3 - Summary of Probable and Possible Health Effects of Cannabis Use Pattern of Use Acute Chronic Probable anxiety, dysphoria, panic, cognitive impairment, psychomotor impairment; chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, dependence, mild cognitive impairment, exacerbation of psychosis; Possible (possible but uncertain, confirmation required in controlled studies) increased risk of traffic accident, psychosis, low-birth-weight babies; cancers in offspring, impaired immunity From CMAJ 2000; 162: 1690-1692. [TABLE END] Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive substance in cannabis. THC is inhaled in the mainstream smoke and absorbed through the lungs, rapidly entering the bloodstream. Effects are perceptible within seconds and fully apparent in a few minutes. Cannabis combines many of the properties of alcohol, tranquilizers, opiates and hallucinogens; it has anxiolytic, sedative, analgesic and psychedelic properties. 13 Its acute toxicity is extremely low, as no deaths directly due to acute cannabis use have ever been reported. The main feature of its use is that it produces a feeling of euphoria (or 'high'). Toxic dose-related effects include anxiety, panic, depression or psychosis.14 It should also be noted that a significant incident of co-morbid addiction occurs in those with physical and mental diseases. People with major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are especially vulnerable in that cannabis use can provoke relapse and aggravate existing symptoms. A chronic lack of energy and drive to work in chronic users has been referred to as an "amotivational syndrome," which is currently believed to represent an ongoing intoxication in frequent users. 14 Cannabis slows reaction times, impairs motor coordination and concentration as well as the completion of complex tasks. 13 Due to the extended presence of metabolites in the bloodstream, it is difficult to correlate blood levels with acute impairment making interpretation of crash data difficult. However, it is generally accepted that cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle and aircraft crashes. Impairments of attention, memory and the ability to process complex information can last for prolonged periods of time, even years, after cessation of heavy, chronic cannabis use. A cannabis withdrawal syndrome similar to alcohol, opiate and benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms exist. 14 Cannabis use increases heart rate and causes blood vessels to dilate. These present a risk for those with pre-existing cardiac disease. Smoke from cannabis preparations contains many of the same compounds as tobacco cigarettes including increased levels of tar. Chronic cannabis smoking is associated with bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic cannabis use may have risks of chronic lung disease and lung cancer comparable to cigarette smoking. With increasing study and experience, it is clear that cannabis, like other substances such as tobacco or alcohol, can have a number of adverse physical and psychological effects. 15 Law Enforcement The 1997 data is the latest year with national drug offences' data for possession, cultivation, trafficking and importation (Figure 1). 16 The proportion of drug incidents is heavily skewed towards cannabis. This is intriguing since the health concerns of cannabis are substantially less than those of heroin or cocaine. [FIGURE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Figure 1: Proportion of All Drug Incidents by Drug Type, Canada, 1997 [FIGURE END] Of the 66,500 drug incidents in Canada in 1997, over 70% (47,908) were cannabis related. Of these, over two thirds (32,682) were for possession. The rate of cannabis offences has increased 34% since 1991 with cannabis-possession rates increasing steadily from 1991-1996 with a slight drop in 1997. Most (86%) of those charged with cannabis offences were under 25 years of age. It has been estimated that about 2,000 Canadians are sent to jail every year for cannabis possession.17 Despite the current level of enforcement, cannabis use has been increasing with over 40% of grade 11, 12 and 13 students having used cannabis in the preceding year. While it is obvious that only a small percentage of users are being charged, thousands of teens and young adults are being charged every year, receiving criminal records that can impact future employment, future interactions with the justice system, and be a barrier to acquiring citizenship. 11 Findings from several studies indicate that perceived health risk and social disapproval were much more important disincentives to cannabis use than legal threats. 18 Experience with Decriminalization in Other Jurisdictions A number of other jurisdictions have implemented alternative enforcement approaches to the personal use of cannabis. While none of these experiences directly predict what would happen in Canada, they do provide information to address some of the issues raised when decriminalization is considered. Despite the obvious interest in the impact of these policy changes, there is a paucity of well-designed evaluations (i.e. evaluations which were designed and implemented prior to policy change, rather than post-hoc analyses on available data). United States In the 1970s, several US states reduced the legal sanctions for possession of small amounts of cannabis to a maximum penalty of a fine. Despite the substantial potential interest in the effects of such policy changes, evaluative studies were relatively sparse. The available data, though based upon national high school student survey data as well as evaluations in two states, indicated that there was no apparent increase in cannabis use that could be attributed to decriminalization. 19 The high school student national survey data showed that while use of cannabis had increased in those states that had decriminalized possession, the rates of use had increased by a greater amount with stricter laws. California was one of the states which decriminalized possession, and similar to other states, experienced a decrease in cannabis use during the 1980s which based upon student surveys appeared to be due to changing perceptions of health risks rather than changes in the legal status of the drug. 19 Netherlands The Netherlands is the most frequently identified example of a country that altered its approach to marijuana. The Dutch impose no penalties for the possession of small amounts of cannabis and allow a number of coffee shops to openly sell the drug. 20 This policy therefore is not simply removing the potential for criminal records and imprisonment with possession, but actually partially legalized cannabis sales. This process began in 1976 and coffee shops were not allowed to advertise, could not sell hard drugs, no sales to minors, no public disturbances, and no sales transactions exceeding certain quantity thresholds. Initially this threshold was set at 30 gm of cannabis, a rather large amount which was reduced to 5 gm in 1995. Attempts have been made to compare the prevalence of cannabis use in the Netherlands with other countries. Since cannabis use changes dramatically with age and over different time periods, surveys need to be of similar populations during similar time periods to be comparable. Differences in the wording of questions between surveys also make comparison difficult. A recent review by MacCouin et al makes 28 comparisons between the Netherlands and the US, Denmark, West Germany, Sweden, Finland, France and the UK.21 Overall, it appears that Dutch rates are lower than rates of use in the US but somewhat higher than those of some of its European neighbours. Cannabis use is higher in Amsterdam compared to other Dutch cities and is comparable to use in the US. A limited number of surveys appear to show that from 1984 to 1992, there was a substantial increase in adolescent (aged 16 - 20) use of cannabis that did not occur in other countries. The increases observed from 1992 to 1998 however, were similar to the increases observed in other countries including Canada. Overall, it appears that while the increases in Dutch adolescent use started earlier than other countries, their prevalence of use was much lower than comparison countries so that by the late 1990s they had comparable rates of use to the US and Canada. Australia From 1987 to 1995, three Australian states decriminalized the possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use by replacing penal sanctions with fines. 22 The courts in other states have tended to utilize non-penal sanctions such as a fine or a suspended sentence with a criminal record. The limited number of surveys conducted in Australia has failed to find evidence of any large impact on cannabis use (some of the surveys had small sample sizes and the trend in usage has been upwards in Australian states which did not decriminalize as well as in other countries that continue to prohibit cannabis use). Interestingly, despite the decriminalization, the number of notices issued by police exceeds the number of cannabis offences prior to the change in law. Summary The preceding sections have suggested that cannabis use is relatively common (particularly in teens and young adults); most use is sporadic; its use is increasing; and it is not harmless. Because of these potential harms, one would not wish to encourage its use. There is however, no necessary connection between adverse health effects of any drug or human behaviour and its prohibition by law. 22 The issue is therefore whether there are less coercive ways to discourage its use. Despite the current criminal justice approach where the bulk of all illegal drug charges are cannabis-related and the majority of these are for possession, use is increasing with thousands of teens and young adults receiving criminal records for possession each year. The available evidence from other jurisdictions suggests that decriminalization would not result in a substantial increase in use beyond baseline trends. Considering current trends, a comprehensive approach to discourage current usage is required. OTHER ILLEGAL DRUGS Illegal drugs other than cannabis present a different set of issues and concerns. While these drugs are not the primary focus of the Special Senate Committee's study, we have included a few key issues to better put the cannabis issue in proper context. Current Use The Ontario Student Drug Use Survey of students in grades 7, 9, 11 and 13 has shown that following a lengthy period of decline in drug use during the 1980s, there has been a steady increase in adolescent drug use. 8 Past year drug use in 1999 was reported as follows: ecstasy (4.8%); PCP (3.2%); hallucinogens (13.8%), and cocaine (4.1%). By comparison, tobacco, alcohol and cannabis were 28.3%, 65.7%, and 29.2% respectively. Canadian survey data of those aged 15 and over in 1994 found that about one in twenty reported any lifetime use of LSD, speed or heroin, or cocaine. 10 Rates of use of these drugs within the preceding year were 1% and 0.7% respectively. Health Effects The adverse effects of drugs such as heroin and cocaine are related not just to the drugs themselves, but also increasingly to their method of intake, which is predominantly by injection. Injection drug use (IDU) is an efficient delivery mechanism of drugs, but is also an extremely effective means of transmitting bloodborne viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. The proportion of HIV infections attributable to IDU has increased from 9% prior to 1985 to over 25% by 1995. 23 IDU is also the predominant means of hepatitis C transmission responsible for 70% of cases. 24 The increasing use of cocaine, which tends to be injected on a more frequent basis, increases the subsequent exposure to infection. It has been estimated that up to 100,000 Canadians inject drugs (not counting steroids). 25 Transmission of bloodborne pathogens is not limited to injection drug users as the disease can then be further spread to sexual contacts, including the sex trade, and vertical transmission from infected mother to child. An epidemic of overdose deaths among injection drug users has been experienced in British Columbia with over 2000 such deaths in Vancouver since 1991. 17 Despite the seriousness of the potential adverse effects of illegal drug use and the potential for this situation to worsen with increasing transmission of bloodborne diseases, on a population basis, legal drugs (alcohol and tobacco) are responsible for substantially more deaths, potential years of life lost and hospitalizations. 26 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 4 - The Number of Deaths, Premature Mortality and Hospital Separations for Illicit Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco, Canada, 1995. Deaths Potential Years of Life Lost Hospital Separations Illicit Drugs 805 33,662 6,940 Alcohol 123,734 172,126 82,014 Tobacco 34,728 500,350 193,772 From: Single et al. CMAJ 2000: 162: 1669-1675 [TABLE END] Expenditures on Illegal Drugs The direct costs associated with illicit drugs based on 1992 Canadian data are shown in the figure below: [FIGURE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [FIGURE END] The vast majority of expenditures related to illegal drugs are on law enforcement. Considering the distribution of drug incidents, a substantial proportion of these are related to cannabis offences although health and other costs will predominantly be associated with other drugs. A substantial proportion of drug charges are for possession as compared with trafficking or importation (cocaine 42%; heroin 42%; other drugs 56%). 16 Despite illegal drug use being primarily a health and social issue, current expenditures do not reflect this and are heavily skewed towards a criminal justice approach. Unfortunately, prisons are not an ideal setting for treating addictions with the potential for continued transmission of bloodborne viruses. RECOMMENDATIONS The Need for Balanced, Comprehensive Approaches Reasons for drug use, particularly "hard drugs," are complex. It is not clear how a predominantly law enforcement approach is going to address the determinants of drug use, treat addictions, or reduce the harms associated with drug use including overdoses and the transmission of bloodborne viruses including HIV. Costs of incarceration are substantially more than the use of effective drug treatment. 27 It appears that there is an over dependence on the law when other models might be more effective in achieving the desired objective of preventing or reducing harm from drug use. 18 Aggressive law enforcement at the user level could exacerbate these harms by encouraging the use of the most dangerous and addictive drugs in the most concentrated forms, 28 because these are easier to conceal and the efficacy of injecting is greater than that of inhaling as drug costs increase in response to prohibition and enforcement. 29 There have been several recent sets of recommendations from expert groups regarding the need for a comprehensive set of approaches to address the public health challenges due to drug use, particularly those associated with injection drug use (IDU). 17, 25, 30, 31 Recommendations include the following components: * address prevention; * treatment and rehabilitation; * research; * surveillance and knowledge dissemination; * national leadership and coordination. Many of the recommendations will require close working relationships with justice/enforcement officials. Drug abuse and dependency is a chronic, relapsing disease for which there are effective treatments.32 A criminal justice approach to a disease is inappropriate particularly when there is increasing consensus that it is ineffective and exacerbates harms.33 The CMA's recommendations have been separated into two separate sections. The first set of recommendations is focused on policies affecting illegal drugs in general. While this goes beyond the intended scope of the Senate Committee's study, in our opinion, these recommendations are equally important for the Committee to consider. The second set of recommendations is specifically focused on cannabis. Our recommendations in this section take into consideration the health impact profile of cannabis, current levels of use, extent and impact of law enforcement activities and experience from other jurisdictions. Section 1: Illegal Drugs The CMA recommends: 1. A National Drug Strategy: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive national drug strategy on the non-medical use of drugs. 2. Redistribution of Resources: The vast majority of resources dedicated to combating illegal drugs are directed towards law enforcement activities. Government needs to re-balance this distribution and allocate a greater proportion of these resources to drug treatment, prevention, and harm reduction programs. Law enforcement activities should target the distribution and production of illegal drugs. 3. Addiction is a Disease: Addiction should be regarded as a disease and therefore, individuals suffering with drug dependency should be diverted, whenever possible, from the criminal justice system to treatment and rehabilitation. Additionally, the stigma associated with addiction needs to be addressed as part of a comprehensive education strategy. 4. Increased Research: All governments commit to more research on the cause, effects and treatment of addiction. Further research on the long- term health effects associated with chronic cannabis use is specifically required. Section 2: Cannabis The CMA recommends: 1. National Cannabis Cessation Program: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive program to minimize cannabis use. This should include, but not be limited to: * Education and awareness raising of the potential harms of cannabis use including risks associated with use in pregnancy; use by those with mental illness; chronic respiratory problems; and chronic heavy use; * Strategies to prevent early use in adolescence; and, * Availability of assessment, counselling and treatment services for those experiencing adverse effects of heavy use or dependence. 2. Driving Under the Influence Prevention Policy: The CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education constitute the most effective approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports a similar multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. 3. Decriminalization: The severity of punishment for simple possession and personal use of cannabis should be reduced with the removal of criminal sanctions. The CMA believes that resources currently devoted to combating simple marijuana possession through the criminal law could be diverted to public health strategies, particularly for youth. To the degree that having a criminal record limits employment prospects the impact on health status is profound. Poorer employment prospects lead to poorer health. Use of a civil violation, such as a fine, is a potential alternative. However, decriminalization should only be pursued as part of a comprehensive national illegal drug strategy that would include a cannabis cessation program. 4. Monitoring and Evaluation: Any changes need to be gradual to protect against any potential harm. In addition, changes to the criminal law in connection with cannabis, should be rigorously monitored and evaluated for their impact. CANADIAN SOCIETY OF ADDICTION MEDICINE The Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM), which was formed in 1989, is a national organization of medical professionals and other scientists interested in the field of substance use disorders. Vision The Society shares its overall goals with many other organizations and groups in Canada; namely, the prevention of problems arising from the use of alcohol and other psychoactive substances, and the cure; improvement or stabilization of the adverse consequences associated with the use of these drugs. This Society aims to achieve these goals through the fostering and promotion of medical sciences and clinical practice in this field in Canada, particularly by: * fostering and promotion of the roles of physicians in the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug related problems; * improvement in the quality of medical practice in the drug and alcohol field through: establishment and promotion of standards of clinical practice; fostering and promotion of research; and fostering and promotion of medical education; * promotion of professional and public awareness of the roles that physicians can play in the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug related problems; * fostering and promotion of further development of programs for the prevention and treatment of problems of alcohol and drug use in physicians; and * contributing to professional and public examination and discussion of important issues in the drug and alcohol field. Policy Statement The CSAM National Drug Policy statement requires that: Canada must have a clear strategy for dealing with the cultivation, manufacture, importation, distribution, advertising, sale, possession and use of psychoactive substances regardless of whether they are classified as legal or illegal. Drug possession for personal use must be decriminalized and distinguished from the trafficking or illegal sale/distribution of drugs to others that must carry appropriate criminal sanctions. The individual and public health impact of substance use, substance abuse and substance dependence must be taken into account at all times. An assessment to ascertain the extent of a substance use disorder and screening for addiction must be an essential part of dealing with someone identified as an illicit drug user or possessor. Appropriate funding must be made available for supply reduction and demand reduction of various psychoactive substances that carry an abuse or addiction liability. Recommendations 1. National policies and regulations must present a comprehensive and coordinated strategy aimed at reducing the harm done to individuals, families and society by the use of all drugs of dependence regardless of the classification of "legal" or "illegal" 2. Prevention programs need to be comprehensively designed to target the entire range of dependence-producing drugs to enhance public awareness and affect social attitudes with scientific information about the pharmacology of drugs and the effects of recreational and problem use on individuals, families, communities and society. 3. Outreach, identification, referral and treatment programs for all persons with addiction need to be increased in number and type until they are available and accessible in every part of the country to all in need of such services. 4. Law enforcement measures aimed at interrupting the distribution of illicit drugs need to be balanced with evidenced based treatment and prevention programs, as well as programs to ameliorate those social factors that exacerbate addiction and its related problems. 5. Any changes in laws that would affect access to dependence-producing drugs should be carefully thought out, implemented gradually and sequentially, and scientifically evaluated at each step of implementation, including evaluating the effects on: * access to young people and prevalence of use among youth; * prevalence of use in pregnancy and effects on offspring; * prevalence rates of alcoholism and other drug dependencies; * crime, violence and incarceration rates; * law enforcement and criminal justice costs; * industrial safety and productivity; * costs to the health care system; * family and social disruption; * other human, social and economic costs. 6. CSAM opposes * any changes in law and regulation that would lead to a sudden significant increase in the availability of any dependence-producing drug (outside of a medically-prescribed setting for therapeutic indications). All changes need to be gradual and carefully monitored. * any system of distribution of dependence-producing drugs that would involve physicians in the prescription of such drugs for other than therapeutic or rehabilitative purposes. 7. CSAM supports * public policies that would offer treatment and rehabilitation in place of criminal penalties for persons with psychoactive substance dependence and whose offense is possession of a dependence-producing drug for their own use. Those who are found guilty of an offense related to Addiction, proper assessment and treatment services must be offered as part of their sentence. This goal may be attained through a variety of sentencing options, depending upon the nature of the offense. * an increase in resources devoted to basic and applied research into the causes, extent and consequences of alcohol and other drug use, problems and dependence, and into methods of prevention and treatment. RELEVANT POSITION STATEMENTS OF OTHER MEDICAL HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS The purpose of this section is to provide the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs with information on the policy positions of other key medical organizations from Canada and the United States in regard to decriminalization of cannabis. Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health34 The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) does not encourage or promote cannabis use. CAMH emphasizes that the most effective way of avoiding cannabis-related harms is through not using cannabis, and encourages people to seek treatment where its use has become a problem. Cannabis is not a benign drug. Cannabis use, and in particular frequent and long-term cannabis use, has been associated with negative health and behavioural consequences, including respiratory damage, problems with physical coordination, difficulties with memory and cognition, pre- and post-natal development problems, psychiatric effects, hormone, immune and cardio-vascular system defects, as well as poor work and school performance. The consequences of use by youth and those with a mental disorder are of particular concern. However, most cannabis use is sporadic or experimental and hence not likely to be associated with serious negative consequences. CAMH thus holds the position that the criminal justice system in general, and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) specifically, under which cannabis possession is a criminal offence, has become an inappropriate control mechanism. This conclusion is based on the available scientific knowledge on the effects of cannabis use, the individual consequences of a criminal conviction, the costs of enforcement, and the limited effectiveness of the criminal control of cannabis use. CAMH thus concurs with similar recent calls from many other expert stakeholders who believe that the control of cannabis possession for personal use should be removed from the realm of the CDSA and the criminal law/criminal justice system. While harmful health consequences exist with extensive cannabis use, CAMH believes that the decriminalization of cannabis possession will not lead to its increased use, based on supporting evidence from other jurisdictions that have introduced similar controls. CAMH recommends that a more appropriate legal control framework for cannabis use be put into place that will result in a more effective and efficient control system, produce fewer negative social and individual consequences, and maintain public health and safety. An alternative legal control system for the Canadian context can be chosen from a number of options that have been tried and proven adequate in other jurisdictions. CAMH further recommends that such an alternative framework be explored on a temporary and rigorously evaluated trial basis, and that an appropriate level of funding be provided/maintained for prevention and treatment programs to minimize the prevalence of cannabis use and its associated harms. American Society of Addiction Medicine 35 The Society's 1994 policy which was updated September 2001 recommends the following: 1. National policy should present a comprehensive and coordinated strategy aimed at reducing the harm done to individuals, families and society by the use of all drugs of dependence. 2. Reliance on the distinction between "legal" and "illegal" drugs is a misleading one, since so-called "legal" drugs are illegal for persons under specified ages, or under certain circumstances. 3. Prevention programs should be comprehensively designed to target the entire range of dependence-producing drugs as well as to produce changes in social attitudes. (See ASAM Prevention Statement.) 4. Outreach, identification, referral and treatment programs for all persons suffering from drug dependencies, including alcoholism and nicotine dependence, should be increased in number and type until they are available and accessible in every part of the country to all in need of such services. 5. Persons suffering from the diseases of alcoholism and other drug dependence should be offered treatment rather than punished for their status of dependence. 6. The balance of resources devoted to combatting these problems should be shifted from a predominance of law enforcement to a greater emphasis on treatment and prevention programs, as well as programs to ameliorate those social factors that exacerbate drug dependence and its related problems. 7. Law enforcement measures aimed at interrupting the distribution of illicit drugs should be aimed with the greatest intensity at those causing the most serious acute problems to society. 8. Any changes in laws that would affect access to dependence-producing drugs should be carefully thought out, implemented gradually and sequentially, and scientifically evaluated at each step of implementation, including evaluating the effects on: a. prevalence of use in pregnancy and effects on offspring; b. prevalence rates of alcoholism and other drug dependencies; c. crime, violence and incarceration rates; d. law enforcement and criminal justice costs; e. industrial safety and productivity; f. costs to the health care system; g. family and social disruption; h. other human, social and economic costs. 9. ASAM opposes any changes in law and regulation that would lead to a sudden significant increase in the availability of any dependence-producing drug (outside of a medically-prescribed setting for therapeutic indications). Any changes should be gradual and carefully monitored. 10. ASAM opposes any system of distribution of dependence-producing drugs that would involve physicians in the prescription of such drugs for other than therapeutic or rehabilitative purposes. 11. ASAM supports public policies that would offer treatment and rehabilitation in place of criminal penalties for persons who are suffering from psychoactive substance dependence and whose only offense is possession of a dependence-producing drug for their own use. 12. ASAM supports public policies which offer appropriate treatment and rehabilitation to persons suffering from psychoactive substance dependence who are found guilty of an offense related to that dependence, as part of their sentence. This goal may be attained through a variety of sentencing options, depending upon the nature of the offense. 13. ASAM supports an increase in resources devoted to basic and applied research into the causes, extent and consequences of alcohol and other drug use, problems and dependence, and into methods of prevention and treatment. 14. In addition, scientifically sound research into public policy issues should receive increased support and be given a high priority as an aid in making such decisions. 15. Physicians and medical societies should remain active in the effort to shape national drug policy and should continue to promote a public health approach to alcoholism and other drug dependencies based on scientific understanding of the causes, development and treatment of these diseases. US Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy 32 The Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy (PLNDP) was started in 1997 when 37 senior physicians from virtually every medical society* met and agreed that the "current criminal justice driven approach is not reducing, let alone controlling drug abuse in America." Their extensive review of the literature found: * drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, like diabetes or hypertension; * treatment for drug addiction works; * treating addiction saves money; * treating drug addiction restores families and communities; * prevention and education help deter youth from substance abuse, delinquency, crime and incarceration. In follow-up to an extensive review of the literature, their key policy recommendations are: * Reallocate resources toward drug treatment and prevention; * Parity in access to care, treatment benefits, and clinical outcomes; * Reduce the disabling regulation of addiction treatment programs; * Utilize effective criminal justice procedures to reduce supply and demand (e.g. community coalitions, community policing, drug courts); * Expand investments in research and training; * Eliminate the stigma associated with the diagnosis and treatment of drug problems; * Train physicians and (medical) students to be clinically competent in diagnosing and treating drug problems. REFERENCES 1 Mosher JF, Yanagisako KL. Public health, not social warfare: a public health approach to illegal drug policy. J Public Health Policy 1991; 12: 278-323. 2 Precede - proceed model of health promotion. Institute of Health Promotion Research. Available from: http://www.ihpr.ubc.ca/frameset/frset_publicat.htm. Accessed: Nov 27, 2001. 3 World Health Organization. Ottawa charter for health promotion. Ottawa: World Health Organization, 1986. 4 Dean M. UK government rejects advice to update drug laws. Lancet 2000; 355: 1341. 5 Curran WJ. Decriminalization, demythologizing, desymbolizing and deemphasizing marijuana. Am J Public Health. 1972; 62: 1151-1152. 6 Report of the Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry into the non-medical use of drugs. Ottawa, 1972. 7 Anonymous. Deglamorising cannabis. Lancet 1995; 346: 1241. (editorial) 8 Edlaf EM, Paglia A, Ivis FJ, Ialomiteanu A. Nonmedicinal drug use among adolescent students: highlights from the 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey. CMAJ 2000; 162: 1677-1680. 9 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey - executive summary. Available from: http://www.camh.net/addiction/ont_study_drug_use.html. Accessed: October 15, 2001. 10 MacNeil P, Webster I. Canada's alcohol and other drugs survey 1994: a discussion of the findings. Ottawa: Health Canada, 1997. 11 Single E, Fischer B, Room R, Poulin C, Sawka E, Thompson H, Topp J. Cannabis control in Canada: options regarding possession. Ottawa, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 1998. Available from: http://www.ccsa.ca/. 12 Hall W. The cannabis policy debate: finding a way forward. CMAJ 2000; 162: 1690-1692. 13 Ashton CH. Pharmacology and effects of cannabis: a brief review. Br J Psychiatr 2001; 178: 101-106. 14 Johns A. Psychiatric effects of cannabis. Br J Psychiatr 2001; 178: 116-122. 15 Farrell M, Ritson B. Br J Psychiatr 2001; 178: 98. 16 Tremblay S. Illicit drugs and crime in Canada. Juristat 1999; 19. 17 Riley D. Drugs and drug policy in Canada: a brief review and commentary. November, 1998. Available from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/1/parlbus/commbus/senate/com-e/ill-e/library-e/riley-e.htm. Accessed: October 15, 2001. 18 Erickson PG. The law, social control, and drug policy: models, factors, and processes. Int J Addiction 1993; 28: 1155-1176. 19 Single EW. The impact of marijuana decriminalization: an update. J Public Health Policy 1989; 10: 456-66. 20 MacCoun R. Interpreting Dutch cannabis policy: reasoning by analogy in the legalization debate. Science 1997; 278: 47-52. 21 MacCoun R, Reuter P. Evaluating alternative cannabis regimes. Br J Psychiat 2001; 178: 123-128. 22 Hall W. The recent Australian debate about the prohibition on cannabis use. Addiction 1997; 92: 1109-1115. 23 Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control. HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users in Canada. May 2001. Available from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/lcdc/bah/epi/idus_e.html. Accessed Oct 17, 2001. 24 Hepatitis C - prevention and control : a public health consensus. Can Communic Dis Rep 1999; 25S2. Available from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/lcdc/publicat/ccdr/99vol25/25s2/index.html. Accessed: Oct 17, 2001. 25 F/P/T Advisory Committee on Population Health et al. Reducing the harm associated with injection drug use in Canada: working document for consultation. March 2001. Available from: http://www.aidslaw.ca/Maincontent/issues/druglaws.htm. Accessed: Oct 14, 2001. 26 Single E, Rehm J, Robson L, Van Truong M. The relative risks and etiologic fractions of different causes of death attributable to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use in Canada. CMAJ 2000: 162: 1669-1675. 27 Marwick C. Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy finds addiction treatment works. JAMA 1999; 279: 1149-1150. 28 Grinspoon L, Bakalar JB. The war on drugs - a peace proposal. N Eng J Med 1994: 330: 357-360. 29 Hankins C. Substance use: time for drug law reform. CMAJ 2000: 162: 1693-1694. 30 National Task Force on HIV, AIDS and Injection Drug Use. HIV/AIDS and injection drug use: a national action plan. Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse and Canadian Public Health Association. May 1997. Available from: http://www.ccsa.ca/docs/HIVAIDS.HTM. Accessed: Oct 15, 2001. 31 Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Injection drug use and HIV/AIDS: legal and ethical issues. Montreal: Network, 1999. 32 Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy. Position paper on drug policy. January 2000. Available from: http://center.butler.brown.edu/plndp/. Accessed: Nov 27, 2001. 33 The Fraser Institute. Sensible solutions to the urban drug problem. 2001. Available from: http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/publications/books/drug_papers/. Accessed: Nov 29, 2001. 34 Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. CAMH Position on the legal sanctions related to cannabis possession/use. April 2000. Available from: www.camh.net/position_papers/cannabis_42000.html. Accessed Oct 9, 2001. 35 American Society of Addiction Medicine. Public policy of ASAM. Adopted 1994. Updated Sept 29, 2001. Available from: www.asam.org. Accessed: Nov 27, 2001. ?? ?? ?? ?? A healthy population...a vibrant medical profession Une population en santé...une profession médicale dynamique A Public Health Perspective on Cannabis and Other Illegal Drugs Ottawa, March 11, 2002 Page 21 Canadian Medical Association
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The Right Drugs, at the Right Times, for the Right Prices: Toward a Prescription Drug Policy for Canada : CMA Presentation to House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1955
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2003-11-06
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2003-11-06
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Every year, three hundred million prescriptions – about 10 for every man, woman and child – are filled in Canada. Prescription drugs have benefited both the health of Canadians, and the health care system itself; they have meant dramatically improved quality of life for many Canadians, and have saved the country a great deal in hospitalization, social benefits and other expenses. However, it could be questioned whether all of Canada’s prescription drug use is appropriate; patients may be receiving too few medications, too many medications or suboptimal medications for their conditions. In addition, prescription drugs carry a price tag of their own. Since 1975, expenditures on prescription medication have risen faster than any other category in the health sector in Canada, and more is now spent on prescription drugs than on physician services. Governments, health care providers, drug manufacturers and the public must constantly strive to ensure that Canadians receive optimal and appropriate prescription drug therapy: the right drugs, at the right times, for the right prices. A considered, coherent, comprehensive, “made in Canada” approach to prescription drug policy should: * Put the health of the patient first; * Promote and enhance quality prescribing; * Respect, sustain and enhance the therapeutic relationship between patients and health professionals; * Promote patient compliance with drug therapy; * Respect the principles of patient confidentiality and the privacy of patient and prescriber information. Prescription drug policy in Canada should address: Access: to * efficacious new drugs within an appropriate time; * coverage for medically necessary drugs for catastrophic care; * generic drugs at reasonable prices; * a patient/physician consultation as part of the prescribing process; * continued research and development capacity in Canada. Information for health care providers and the public that is balanced and accurate. Safety: through mechanisms for the systematic monitoring of prescription drugs and their effects. Canada’s doctors are committed to working with others to ensure that Canadians receive the right drugs, at the right times, for the right prices. Summary of CMA Recommendations: 1. That the federal government implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce review times to a level at or better than that in other OECD countries. 2. That the pharmaceutical industry give priority to research and development on drugs and delivery mechanisms that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. 3. That Health Canada apply a priority review process to all drugs that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. 4. That governments and insurance providers conduct research to identify the current gaps in prescription drug coverage for all Canadians, and develop policy options for providing this coverage, including consideration of the roles of public and private payers. 5. That the federal government monitor and, if necessary, regulate the export of prescription medications to ensure their continued availability to Canadians. 6. That prescribing of medication be done within the context of the therapeutic relationship which exists between the patient and the physician. 7. That brand-specific direct to consumer prescription drug advertising (DTCA) not be permitted in Canada. 8. That the federal government enforce the existing restrictions on DTCA found in the Food and Drug Act to the full extent of the law. 9. That the federal government develop and fund a comprehensive program to provide accurate, unbiased prescription drug information to patients. 10. That all stakeholders join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in prescribing. 11. That government accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a systems approach to support a culture of safety. 12. That a post-marketing surveillance system be implemented to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. PURPOSE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has prepared this submission for the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health’s review of prescription drugs in Canada. We applaud this review and welcome the opportunity to present the views of Canada’s medical community. Our vision is simple: that all Canadians should receive, if appropriate, the right drugs for their conditions, at the right times, for the right prices. Governments, health care providers, drug manufacturers and the public should all work together to develop a “made in Canada” prescription drug policy to realize this vision. This policy must be considered, coherent and comprehensive, and should: * Put the health of the patient first; * Promote and enhance quality prescribing; * Respect, sustain and enhance the therapeutic relationship between patients and health professionals; * Promote patient compliance with drug therapy; * Respect the principles of patient confidentiality and the privacy of patient and prescriber information. In developing this policy we consider it particularly important to address the issues of: Access to quality health care In this context, the CMA’s vision of a National Access Strategy includes appropriate access to * efficacious new drugs within an appropriate time, * coverage for medically necessary drugs for catastrophic care, * generic drugs at reasonable prices, * a patient/physician consultation as part of the prescribing process, * continued research and development capacity in Canada. * Information for health care providers and the public that is balanced and accurate. * Safety: through mechanisms for the systematic monitoring of prescription drugs and their effects. Canada’s doctors look forward to working with others to realize our vision. In this submission we will discuss the steps that the CMA recommends be taken. INTRODUCTION The value of prescription medications Prescription drugs play an important role in preventing and treating health conditions. Every year, three hundred million prescriptions – about 10 for every man, woman and child – are filled in Canada1. In recent years, powerful new medications have meant dramatically improved quality of life, or substantial change in modes and patterns of treatment, for many Canadians. Anti-retroviral treatment has saved thousands of people with HIV infection from rapid, fatal progression to AIDS. Thanks to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) millions of people with chronic depression who might otherwise have been incapacitated or institutionalized can lead normal, productive lives in the community. Drugs to treat peptic ulcer disease have changed its treatment profile from one based mainly on surgery to a largely medical one. Though the cumulative savings on hospital care, lost workforce productivity, social benefits and disability insurance payments due to prescription drug use have not been quantified, they have undoubtedly been significant. Areas of Concern In short, prescription drugs have benefited both the health of Canadians, and the health care system itself. However, they have also created concerns that must be addressed. Utilization: is it Appropriate? Experts have questioned whether all of Canada’s prescription drug use is appropriate: are patients receiving too many medications, too few medications, or suboptimal medications for their conditions? Over-utilization of prescription drugs has been a topic of some attention, but under-utilization also exists. For example, as many as 60% of people with high blood pressure may not be receiving treatment; many of these people do not even know they have the condition.2 In addition, patient compliance with prescription drug therapy is increasingly recognized as a problem, especially for long-term or chronic conditions. Compliance is a potential issue in all treatments but is of special concern in conditions where few clinical symptoms are present: for example in hypertension, where lack of treatment over the long term may result in kidney damage, vascular and opthalmological damage, stroke or heart disease. One study found that only 50% of patients comply with long-term drug therapy, and an even smaller percentage comply with lifestyle alterations.3 Partial compliance with antibiotic therapy for infectious diseases is well recognized as one cause of anti-microbial resistance to common infectious pathogens. Cost: is it too high? More is now spent on prescription medicine than on physician services. Since 1975, expenditures on prescription medication have risen faster than any other category;4 during the 1990’s they rose more than twice as quickly as overall spending on health care.5 In 2002 retail spending on drugs in Canada (prescribed and non-prescribed) was estimated to be at least 16% of total health care spending. Prescription medication accounts for 80% of this category, up from 70.3% in 1990. What drives drug expenditure in Canada? There is considerable debate on this subject, but some of the drivers are believed to be: * Increased utilization: as the population ages there is an increased prevalence of conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus and osteoarthritis, which often require pharmacological treatment. * Newer (patented) drugs, which are more expensive than generics, dominate the prescription market. Between 1995 and 2000, five drug categories (including cholesterol lowering agents, high blood pressure drugs, acid-reducing agents and anti-depressants) contributed significantly to the overall rise in drug costs.5 These categories are dominated by newer, patented drugs, many of which are heavily promoted. * Prices of generic drugs, though lower than those of patented drugs, are higher in Canada than in some other countries. For example, generic drug prices are 26% lower in Germany and 68% lower in New Zealand.6 * Marketing practices such as mass media direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) in the United States, and its attendant “spillover” into the Canadian marketplace, may contribute to increased utilization. In Canada the Patent Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) maintains price controls on brand-name drugs. Similar price-control mechanisms exist in European Union countries. However, no such controls exist for generic medications in Canada. All in all, prescription medications can be costly for Canadians, especially for those who lack any kind of insurance coverage. The Role of Physicians and the Canadian Medical Association Canada’s doctors are committed to ensuring that Canadians have access to the right drugs, at the right times, at the right prices, to help them achieve the right results – in other words, the best possible health outcomes. The goal of drug therapy is to improve patients’ health and quality of life by preventing, eliminating or controlling diseases or symptoms. Patients, physicians and pharmacists must work in collaboration to achieve this goal. The physician’s role in drug therapy goes well beyond the act of writing out a prescription; it encompasses: * Diagnosing diseases, assessing the need for drug therapy and designing the medication regime; * Working with patients to set treatment goals and monitor progress toward them; * Monitoring the patient’s response to drug therapy, revising the care plan when necessary to support compliance and achieve the best possible health outcomes; * Sharing with the patient specific information about the diseases and the drug therapy, including its effects and potential side effects (including, in some cases, the potential for prescription drug addiction).7 The CMA’s activity has been focused on promoting excellence in prescribing, and on disseminating drug information to physicians.8 In 1999, the CMA worked with Health Canada and the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) to convene an expert roundtable on the subject of “Best Practices in Prescribing”. This was but one effort of the profession to explore why some therapies appear to be under-prescribed, while others may be over-prescribed. CMA has developed principles on the issues of physician information and of providing information on prescription drugs to consumers; both these documents will be discussed later in this submission. CMA and CPhA have also developed a joint policy statement on approaches to enhancing the quality of drug therapy (attached as Appendix I). In addition CMA is co-funding, with the Canadian Institute of Health Research, an interdisciplinary research team focussed on Drug Policy Futures. The team’s identified areas of study include: financing and public expectations; improving quality; health care evaluation and technology assessment; and public advice-seeking in the era of e-health. The CMA publishes Drugs of Choice, a definitive Canadian guide to first- and second-line drug therapies for hundreds of clinical conditions. It is now in its third edition. In addition CMA maintains an extensive database of clinical practice guidelines, including prescribing guidelines, available to physicians and the public through the CMA Web site, and has developed an on line course for physicians on Safe Medication Practices. The cma.ca web site also provides access to a Canadian online drug database that can be downloaded and used with state-of-the-art PDA (personal device) technology at the point of clinical care. CMA’S PRIORITIES FOR ACTION A) Access to quality health care CMA’s history of advocating for access to needed health care services goes back many years. In 2004, a National Access Strategy will be one of the association’s highest-priority activities. With respect to prescription drugs there are several access-related problems: slow approval of new drugs, uneven insurance coverage, and the possible consequences of cross-border shopping on the availability of drugs in Canada. i) Drug Approvals: The Right Drug at the Right Time CMA recommends: 1. That the federal government implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce review times to a level at or better than that in other OECD countries. 2. That the pharmaceutical industry give priority to research and development on drugs and delivery mechanisms that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. 3. That Health Canada apply a priority review process to drugs that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. Stakeholders have repeatedly drawn attention to the slowness of Canada’s drug review process. Between 1996 and 1998 Canadian approval times (median 518 days) were significantly longer than Sweden (median 371 days), the UK (median 308 days) and the United States (median 369 days). These have not improved significantly even after Health Canada implemented a cost-recovery approach to funding the drug review process. Delays in the drug review process mean delays in access to new, potentially life-saving medications. For example, 15 other countries approved Singulair, a major breakthrough in asthma therapy, before it was approved in Canada, even though the drug was developed in Montreal! Approximately 10% of children between 5 and 14 years of age have asthma and could have benefited from this relatively safe drug. Intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a medication for treatment of acute stroke, was approved for use in the United States in 1996 but was not approved in Canada until 1999. Canada’s long drug review times are mainly attributed to lack of resources at Health Canada. CMA recommends that Canada implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce these times to an appropriate level. The 2003 federal budget announcement of $190 million over five years to improve the timeliness of the regulatory process was encouraging. We hope that this will soon translate into a significant reduction in drug review times. Many drugs submitted for approval are not genuinely innovative; some are virtual copies of drugs already on the market. Others, however, could offer substantial improvement over what is currently available. They could be more clinically effective; or they could have fewer side effects; or their mechanism of delivery could increase compliance (for example, medication that can be taken only once a day instead of three or four times a day). CMA recommends that the pharmaceutical industry give priority to research and development on products and delivery mechanisms that offer substantial additional benefit to Canadian patients. It seems logical that drugs that offer benefits not yet available to Canadians should reach patients who need them more quickly. Recently, Health Canada implemented a priority review process for drugs to treat serious, life threatening or debilitating conditions, for which there is substantial evidence that the drug is a significant improvement over existing therapies. This is a promising step. CMA recommends that Health Canada apply a priority review process to all drugs deemed to offer substantial improvement over what is already on the market. This will also serve as an incentive to the pharmaceutical industry to emphasize drugs that offer substantial benefit in their research and development plans. ii) Coverage: Making the System Work CMA recommends: 4. That governments and insurance providers conduct research to identify the current gaps in prescription drug coverage for Canadians, and develop policy options for providing this coverage, including consideration of the roles of public and private payers. Coverage for all Canadians. Prescription drugs are Canada’s most notable example of a public/ private partnership in health services delivery. Our country’s blend of public and private drug insurance coverage has worked reasonably well; but there is room for improvement. The Canada Health Act’s mandate covers “drugs, biologicals and related preparations when administered in the hospital”. Provincial and territorial drug programs vary with most covering only seniors and people on social assistance.9 Many Canadians get their drug coverage through private plans offered by their employers. But many people in Canada lack any kind of drug coverage. We do not know exactly how many. According to a report prepared for the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, 2% to 4% of Canadians have no coverage, but other reports place the number closer to 10%.10,11 At a minimum, 1 million to 3 million Canadians are in need of basic prescription drug coverage. Drug therapy may be more cost-efficient than some forms of hospital care. Is the current health care system promoting inefficiency by covering hospital services more completely than prescription drug therapy? In 1997 the National Forum on Health recommended that drugs become part of the publicly funded system. However, such a system would be prohibitively expensive; estimates range from $12.4 billion for a combined public and private model (with co-payments) to $13.8 billion for fully funded, public only model (no co-payments).12 The report of the Romanow Commission acknowledged this when it emphasized the need to “move in a gradual but deliberate and dedicated way to integrate prescription drugs more fully into the continuum of care”. For the short term, the report recommended a Catastrophic Drug Transfer to ensure that Canadians who face the greatest financial burden can continue to access the medications they need. The Trillium program in Ontario is an example of such a program. We need to know more about both the number of people who need drug coverage and the best means of providing them with it. As a first step, CMA recommends that the government, insurance providers and all partners in the public and private sectors conduct research to more accurately identify current gaps in prescription drug coverage, and develop policy options for bridging them. Given the ever larger role that prescription drug therapy is playing in health care in Canada, governments should consider expanding the current basket of “core services” to include prescription drugs. Under the Canada Health Act provinces and territories must ensure that medically necessary physician and hospital services are provided on a first-dollar basis. CMA has recommended that the scope of the basket of core services be updated regularly to reflect the realities of health care delivery and the needs of Canadians. Given the potential of prescription drugs to improve the system’s cost-effectiveness, we believe that Canadian governments must consider whether the concept of “core services” needs to be revised to reflect their importance, provided that this does not further compromise access to medically necessary hospital and physician services. Drug Pricing Policies: Toward a Policy for All Drugs in Canada. As mentioned previously, PMPRB controls the prices of brand-name patent medications in Canada. However, generic drug make up 40% of the drugs prescribed in this country. Canada has no mechanism to control the prices of generic drugs, as do some other countries (France, for example, has a decree stating that the price of a generic product must be at least 30% less than the price of the original patented brand.) 6 Most provinces have policies encouraging substitution of a brand drug by a comparable generic where appropriate. CMA believes it is time for Canadian governments to explore mechanisms for ensuring appropriate pricing of generic medications. Product Substitution: Making health the first priority. Even under their current system of limited coverage, federal and provincial governments have expressed concern about the cost of their drug programs, and implemented measures to reduce this cost. One of these is drug product substitution. Generic substitution, discussed in the previous section, is now commonplace; British Columbia has taken the concept further with its system of reference-based pricing. While CMA recognizes the motives behind drug product substitution, we believe that it should only be implemented if it does not jeopardize quality of care or patient confidentiality. Doctors would be happy to participate in discussion of initiatives around drug product substitution, to ensure that the health of the patient continues to be the highest priority to all stakeholders. iii) Access and Cross-Border Prescribing CMA recommends: 5. That the federal government monitor and, if necessary, regulate the export of prescription medications to ensure their continued availability to Canadians. 6. That prescribing of medication be done within the context of the therapeutic relationship that exists between the patient and the physician. Prices of brand-name prescription drugs prices are higher in the US, where no price review body exists, than they are in Canada. As a result access to the need for prescription medication can pose considerable financial hardship, particularly for America’s elderly and poor. The rising cost of brand-name medications in the United States has led many Americans to look to Canada for less expensive alternatives. At least one US city, Springfield, Massachusetts, has begun a voluntary program to purchase prescription medication from Canada for its workers and retirees13 and the State of Illinois is examining the feasibility of following Springfield’s lead.14 US drug costs have also spurred a growth industry in Canada: Internet pharmacies. According to estimates in US media, approximately $650 million (US) worth of prescriptions are sold online every year.15 The prospect of accessing cheaper Canadian drugs is particularly appealing to elderly Americans who have turned to the Internet to purchase prescriptions they would be unable to afford at home. The burgeoning cross-border export of pharmaceuticals has had its consequences. Several brand-name multinational pharmaceutical manufactures have moved to stop or limit supplies to those Canadian pharmacies they believe are selling drugs over the Internet. They must now order directly from the manufacturer instead of from wholesalers.16 The brand-name companies have also held out the prospect of boycotting Canada in response to legislation passed by the US House of Representatives that would allow the importation of drugs by Americans.17 This legislation is now before the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The US Food and Drug Administration has opposed importation on safety grounds. The CMA shares the increasingly prevalent concern that cross-border export will result in reduced access to prescription drugs in Canada, and damage the research and development capacity of brand-name prescription drug manufacturers in Canada. Therefore the CMA recommends that Canada monitor and, if necessary, regulate the export of brand-name drugs to ensure their continued availability in this country. Many Internet pharmacies offer the services of physicians who will sign prescriptions without seeing the patient in a consultation. This is not acceptable to the CMA, or to the regulatory Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons or the Canadian Medical Protective Association. It is clear that, in principle, to form an appropriate therapeutic relationship a physician must take a history, perform an appropriate physical examination, and order and interpret appropriate diagnostic tests on her patients. The role of the physician in drug therapy is a complex one; to be most effective it requires a strong ongoing professional relationship between patient and physician. This relationship is the foundation of medical practice; it is key to a prescribing decision and it must be maintained. Our position is discussed in greater detail in CMA’s Statement on Internet Prescribing (attached as Appendix II). B) Consumer Drug Information: From DTCA to DTCI CMA recommends: 7. That brand-specific direct to consumer prescription drug advertising (DTCA) not be permitted in Canada. 8. That the federal government enforce the existing restrictions on DTCA found in the Food and Drug Act to the full extent of the law. 9. That the federal government develop and fund a comprehensive program to provide accurate, unbiased prescription drug information to patients. In the past few years an increasing amount of information on prescription medication has become available to consumers. Much of this reaches Canadians in the form of direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) for specific brands, transmitted across the border from the United States, where it is a billion-dollar-a-year business. DTCA is not legal in Canada, except for notification of price, quantity and the name of the drug. However, advertisers have taken advantage of loopholes in the law to promote brand-name drugs in this country – for example, the controversial television campaign for Viagra. DTCA is also transmitted by print and TV across the border from the United States, and worldwide through the Internet. There is a strong lobby for a relaxation of the DTCA restrictions in Canada. DTCA boosts sales of advertised drugs. In 1999, 25 drugs accounted for 40% of that year’s increase in retail drug spending in the US; all these drugs were advertised to the public.18 Further, DTCA adversely affects the patient/physician relationship. Doctors report feeling pressure and ambivalence when patients ask them to prescribe a specific brand-name drug. 19,20 About 20% of respondents to the CMA’s 2003 physician survey felt patients’ request for advertised drugs had a negative impact on the patient/physician relationship.21 Advocates for DTCA maintain that it provides “consumers” with the information they need to become partners in their own health care. They maintain that DTCA does not undermine the patient/physician relationship, because it does not alter the fact that ultimate prescribing authority remains in the hands of the physician. However, the CMA believes that direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs is inappropriate. DTCA * does not communicate risk adequately, or provide enough information to allow the consumer to make appropriate drug selections. Generally it does not provide information about other products or therapies that could be used to treat the same condition, * stimulates demand by exaggerating the risks of a disease and generating unnecessary fear, * contributes to a culture of “overmedicalization” by treating normal human conditions such as aging and baldness as diseases, and offering “a pill for every ill”. Brand-specific direct to consumer prescription drug advertising should not be permitted in Canada. CMA calls on the federal government to enforce the existing restrictions on DTCA found in the Food and Drug Act and its regulations to the full extent of the law. We believe that the public has a right to accurate, unbiased direct to consumer information (DTCI) on drugs and other therapies, to enable patients to make decisions regarding their own health care. This information may increase the appropriateness of prescription drug use. For example, it may encourage consumers to get treatment for conditions that are currently under-treated. However, there are more effective ways to provide this information than brand-name advertising. CMA has developed “Principles for Providing Information about Prescription Drugs to Consumers” as an alternative to DTCA; these are attached as Appendix III. We call on Canadian stakeholders, including governments, health professionals, consumer groups and industry, to work together to provide information for the public based on these principles. Further, the CMA calls on the federal government to develop and fund a comprehensive program to provide accurate, unbiased prescription drug information to patients. C) Safety: Ensuring Best Practices in Prescribing CMA recommends: 10. That all stakeholders join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in prescribing. 11. That government accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a systems approach to support a culture of safety. 12. That a post-marketing surveillance system be implemented to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. The health care system is complex, involving many inter-related and interdependent factors which could influence the frequency and intensity of medication incidents. Such “systems factors” might include * shortage of qualified health professionals (physicians, nurses and others), * inappropriate use of new technology, * unclear labeling or similar-looking drug preparations, * prescription drug misuse, including over-prescribing or under-prescribing of certain medications. Canada’s doctors are working to promote drug safety on a number of fronts. For example, CMA is working with governments at all levels to ensure that we do not “enrich the nation’s urine” through unnecessary prescribing. The Canadian Medical Association Journal regularly publishes research on prescribing practices. CMA also publishes Safe Medication Practices, a physician guide to patient safety; a companion online course is available on the cma.ca web site. We propose that the health care system work to create a culture that promotes optimal prescribing, by fostering outcomes research, creating supportive infrastructures, strengthening the capacity for post-marketing surveillance, and making the best possible use of technology. Our suggestions are discussed below. Closing the Care Gap. Given our present knowledge base, it is often difficult to ascertain whether current drug utilization patterns lead to improvements in health. For example, research on compliance with drug therapy, and the factors that improve it, is in its infancy and though we know that direct-to-consumer advertising affects drug sales we have yet to determine whether it affects health outcomes. A commitment to outcome-based research on drug utilization would help us find the answers to these and other questions. Research on prescribing patterns should respect the conditions outlined in CMA’s “Principles Concerning Physician Information” (attached as Appendix IV). The CMA calls on all stakeholders (governments, health professionals and the private sector) to join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in drug utilization and prescribing, and close care gaps when they are identified. Creating an infrastructure for safety. The CMA has no doubt of the overall quality of the prescription medications approved for use in Canada. However, the more drugs are used, the greater their potential for unintended harm. Studies in the United States have found that almost 2% of patients admitted to hospitals experienced a significant adverse drug event, and that the number of deaths due to medications increased over 200% over five years.22 Though studies are still in progress in Canada, we assume that rates of adverse medication events are similar in the two countries. The 2003 federal budget committed $10 million per year to establish a Patient Safety Institute to monitor and prevent medical incidents. This is an important step toward building a safer health care system, and Canada’s doctors are committed to moving this initiative forward. The CMA, with 11 other health care organizations, is a member of the Canadian Coalition on Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention. This initiative is led by Health Canada and has recently been funded through the Patient Safety Initiative. The federal government has also recently funded the Canadian Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention System to collect data on medication incidents and disseminate information designed to reduce their risk. The CMA believes that to be effective a patient safety initiative must * be voluntary, * be non-punitive; and * protect the privacy and confidentiality of physicians and patients. Further, efforts towards ensuring patient safety should address in a timely manner the “systems” issues referred to above, supporting and fostering a culture of safety. CMA is calling on governments to accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a “systems” approach. Strengthening Post-Marketing Surveillance. No matter how rigourous the drug approval and review process, it cannot identify all of a medication’s effects; many of these are only identified once the drug is in widespread use in the general population. A strong post-marketing surveillance system is needed to gather this knowledge and ensure patient safety. A post marketing surveillance system should include timely collection of data related to * adverse drug reactions, * medication incidents, * targeted drug effectiveness studies, * optimal utilization of medications. The goal of an enhanced post-marketing surveillance system is to monitor the ongoing safety and risk/benefit ratio of medications once they have been approved and are being used in the broad population. An ideal surveillance system would go beyond collecting and collating data, to analyze it and produce information that health care professionals and policy makers can use in decision-making at the population level. For example, data could be used to * communicate product related risks to health professionals and patients, * determine the incidence of adverse drug reactions and medication incidents in the Canadian population as a whole and various subgroups over time, as well as their health and economic impact. Currently post-marketing surveillance of drugs in Canada is inadequate, relying on reporting which is often erratic and inconsistent, and for which reporters are not compensated. Canada needs a coordinated post-marketing surveillance system to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. Surveillance should include medication incidents and adverse drug reactions, and should document and consider the effect of the “systems factors” contributing to these events. Making use of supportive technology. We mentioned that the current reporting system is erratic and inconsistent. An investment in supportive technology would reduce inconsistencies by increasing physicians’ capacity to report and even prevent medication incidents. Under the September 2000 federal/provincial Health Accord, the Government of Canada announced $500 million to expand the use of health information and communications technologies, including the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs). One of the advantages cited for a pan-Canadian EHR is that it could reduce the occurrence of adverse drug events – for example, handwritten prescription and interpretation errors. Progress has been slow, but CMA will follow with interest the pilot EHR program just announced in Alberta. While we expect improvement in prescribing practices and outcomes under such programs, we expect them to respect the principles of patient confidentiality and the right of prescribers to the privacy of their prescribing information. Technology can also make real-time communication within the health care system much easier. and CMA strongly recommends an investment in systems that can link physicians to one another and to the rest of the health care system. In its 2003 brief to the Finance Committee’s pre budget hearings, CMA recommended that the federal government immediately fund dedicated Internet connectivity for all physicians in Canada. CMA has also repeatedly called for sustained and substantial investment in a “REAL” (rapid, effective, accessible and linked) Health Communications and Coordination Initiative to improve technical capacity to communicate with front-line health providers in real time. Real-time information is essential for effective day-to-day health care and will form the cornerstone of an adverse drug reaction communication program for the 21st century. Conclusion It is vital to Canada’s physicians that our patients receive the right medications for their condition, at the right times, at the right prices. CMA calls on the federal government and all other stakeholders to work together to develop a comprehensive “made in Canada” prescription drug policy to realize this vision – one that promotes optimal prescribing, puts the health of patients first, respects the relationships of patient and physician and of patient and pharmacist, and honours the principle of patient confidentiality and the privacy of patient and prescriber information. The reports of the Romanow Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada and the Senate Standing Committee on Science, Social Affairs and Technology review discussed issues surrounding prescription drug policy in Canada. We hope that the review by this parliamentary committee will lead to prompt and decisive action. APPENDIX I CMA POLICY APPROACHES TO ENHANCING THE QUALITY OF DRUG THERAPY A JOINT STATEMENT BY THE CMA ANDTHE CANADIAN PHARMACEUTICAL ASSOCIATION This joint statement was developed by the CMA and the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association, a national association of pharmacists, and includes the goal of drug therapy, strategies for collaboration to optimize drug therapy and physicians' and pharmacists' responsibilities in drug therapy. The statement recognizes the importance of patients, physicians and pharmacists working in close collaboration and partnership to achieve optimal outcomes from drug therapy. Goal of This Joint Statement The goal of this joint statement is to promote optimal drug therapy by enhancing communication and working relationships among patients, physicians and pharmacists. It is also meant to serve as an educational resource for pharmacists and physicians so that they will have a clearer understanding of each other's responsibilities in drug therapy. In the context of this statement, a "patient" may include a designated patient representative, such as a parent, spouse, other family member, patient advocate or health care provider. Physicians and pharmacists have a responsibility to work with their patients to achieve optimal outcomes by providing high-quality drug therapy. The important contribution of all members of the health care team and the need for cooperative working relationships are recognized; however, this statement focuses on the specific relationships among pharmacists, physicians and patients with respect to drug therapy. This statement is a general guide and is not intended to describe all aspects of physicians' or pharmacists' activities. It is not intended to be restrictive, nor should it inhibit positive developments in pharmacist-physician relationships or in their respective practices that contribute to optimal drug therapy. Furthermore, this statement should be used and interpreted in accordance with applicable legislation and other legal requirements. This statement will be reviewed and assessed regularly to ensure its continuing applicability to medical and pharmacy practices. Goal of Drug Therapy The goal of drug therapy is to improve patients' health and quality of life by preventing, eliminating or controlling diseases or symptoms. Optimal drug therapy is safe, effective, appropriate, affordable, cost-effective and tailored to meet the needs of patients, who participate, to the best of their ability, in making informed decisions about their therapy. Patients require access to necessary drug therapy and specific, unbiased drug information to meet their individual needs. Providing optimal drug therapy also requires a valid and accessible information base generated by basic, clinical, pharmaceutical and other scientific research. Working Together for Optimal Drug Therapy Physicians and pharmacists have complementary and supportive responsibilities in providing optimal drug therapy. To achieve this goal, and to ensure that patients receive consistent information, patients, pharmacists and physicians must work cooperatively and in partnership. This requires effective communication, respect, trust, and mutual recognition and understanding of each other's complementary responsibilities. The role of each profession in drug therapy depends on numerous factors, including the specific patient and his or her drug therapy, the prescription status of the drug concerned, the setting and the patient physician pharmacist relationship. However, it is recognized that, in general, each profession may focus on certain areas more than others. For example, when counselling patients on their drug therapy, a physician may focus on disease-specific counselling, goals of therapy, risks and benefits and rare side effects, whereas a pharmacist may focus on correct usage, treatment adherence, dosage, precautions, dietary restrictions and storage. Areas of overlap may include purpose, common side effects and their management and warnings regarding drug interactions and lifestyle concerns. Similarly, when monitoring drug therapy, a physician would focus on clinical progress toward treatment goals, whereas a pharmacist may focus on drug effects, interactions and treatment adherence; both would monitor adverse effects. Both professions should tailor drug therapy, including education, to meet the needs of individual patients. To provide continuity of care and to promote consistency in the information being provided, it is important that both pharmacists and physicians assess the patients' knowledge and identify and reinforce the educational component provided by the other. Strategies for Collaborating to Optimize Drug Therapy Patients, physicians and pharmacists need to work in close collaboration and partnership to achieve optimal drug therapy. Strategies to facilitate such teamwork include the following. Respecting and supporting patients' rights to make informed decisions regarding their drug therapy. Promoting knowledge, understanding and acceptance by physicians and pharmacists of their responsibilities in drug therapy and fostering widespread communication of these responsibilities so they are clearly understood by all. Supporting both professions' relationship with patients, and promoting a collaborative approach to drug therapy within the health care team. Care must be taken to maintain patients' trust and their relationship with other caregivers. Sharing relevant patient information for the enhancement of patient care, in accordance and compliance with all of the following: ethical standards to protect patient privacy, accepted medical and pharmacy practice, and the law. Patients should inform their physician and pharmacist of any information that may assist in providing optimal drug therapy. Increasing physicians' and pharmacists' awareness that it is important to make themselves readily available to each other to communicate about a patient for whom they are both providing care. Enhancing documentation (e.g., clearly written prescriptions and communication forms) and optimizing the use of technology (e.g., e-mail, voice mail and fax) in individual practices to enhance communication, improve efficiency and support consistency in information provided to patients. Developing effective communication and administrative procedures between health care institutions and community-based pharmacists and physicians to support continuity of care. Developing local communication channels and encouraging dialogue between the professions (e.g., through joint continuing education programs and local meetings) to promote a peer-review-based approach to local prescribing and drug-use issues. Teaching a collaborative approach to patient care as early as possible in the training of pharmacists and physicians. Developing effective communication channels and encouraging dialogue among patients, physicians and pharmacists at the regional, provincial, territorial and national levels to address issues such as drug-use policy, prescribing guidelines and continuing professional education. Collaborating in the development of technology to enhance communication in practices (e.g., shared patient databases relevant to drug therapy). Working jointly on committees and projects concerned with issues in drug therapy such as patient education, treatment adherence, formularies and practice guidelines, hospital-to-community care, cost-control strategies, sampling and other relevant policy issues concerning drug therapy. Fostering the development and utilization of a high-quality clinical and scientific information base to support evidence-based decision making. The Physician's Responsibilities Physicians and pharmacists recognize the following responsibilities in drug therapy as being within the scope of physicians' practice, on the basis of such factors as physicians' education and specialized skills, relationship with patients and practice environment. Some responsibilities may overlap with those of pharmacists (see The Pharmacist's Responsibilities). In addition, it is recognized that practice environments within medicine may differ and may affect the physician's role. Assessing health status, diagnosing diseases, assessing the need for drug therapy and providing curative, preventive, palliative and rehabilitative drug therapy in consultation with patients and in collaboration with caregivers, pharmacists and other health care professionals, when appropriate. Working with patients to set therapeutic goals and monitor progress toward such goals in consultation with caregivers, pharmacists and other health care providers, when appropriate. Monitoring and assessing response to drug therapy, progress toward therapeutic goals and patient adherence to the therapeutic plan; when necessary, revising the plan on the basis of outcomes of current therapy and progress toward goals of therapy, in consultation with patients and in collaboration with caregivers, pharmacists and other health care providers, when appropriate. Carrying out surveillance of and assessing patients for adverse reactions to drugs and other unanticipated problems related to drug therapy, revising therapy and, when appropriate, reporting adverse reactions and other complications to health authorities. Providing specific information to patients and caregivers about diagnosis, indications and treatment goals, and the action, benefits, risks and potential side effects of drug therapy. Providing and sharing general and specific information and advice about disease and drugs with patients, caregivers, health care providers and the public. Maintaining adequate records of drug therapy for each patient, including, when applicable, goals of therapy, therapy prescribed, progress toward goals, revisions of therapy, a list of drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter drugs) currently taken, adverse reactions to therapy, history of known drug allergies, smoking history, occupational exposure or risk, known patterns of alcohol or substance use that may influence response to drugs, history of treatment adherence and attitudes toward drugs. Records should also document patient counselling and advice given, when appropriate. Ensuring safe procurement, storage, handling, preparation, distribution, dispensing and record keeping of drugs (in keeping with federal and provincial regulations and the CMA policy summary "Physicians and the Pharmaceutical Industry (Update 1994)" (Can Med Assoc J 1994;150:256A-C.) when the patient cannot reasonably receive such services from a pharmacist. Maintaining a high level of knowledge about drug therapy through critical appraisal of the literature and continuing professional development. Care must be provided in accordance with legislation and in an atmosphere of privacy, and patient confidentiality must be maintained. Care also should be provided in accordance with accepted scientific and ethical standards and procedures. The Pharmacist's Responsibilities Pharmacists and physicians recognize the following responsibilities as being within the scope of pharmacists' practice, on the basis of such factors as pharmacists' education and specialized skills, relationship with patients and practice environment. Some responsibilities may overlap with those of physicians (see The Physician's Responsibilities). In addition, it is recognized that, in selected practice environments, the pharmacists' role may differ considerably. Evaluating the patients' drug-therapy record ("drug profile") and reviewing prescription orders to ensure that a prescribed therapy is safe and to identify, solve or prevent actual or potential drug-related problems or concerns. Examples include possible contraindications, drug interactions or therapeutic duplication, allergic reactions and patient nonadherence to treatment. Significant concerns should be discussed with the prescriber. Ensuring safe procurement, storage, preparation, distribution and dispensing of pharmaceutical products (in keeping with federal, provincial and other applicable regulations). Discussing actual or potential drug-related problems or concerns and the purpose of drug therapy with patients, in consultation with caregivers, physicians and health care providers, when appropriate. Monitoring drug therapy to identify drug-related problems or concerns, such as lack of symptomatic response, lack of adherence to treatment plans and suspected adverse effects. Significant concerns should be discussed with the physician. Advising patients and caregivers on the selection and use of nonprescription drugs and the management of minor symptoms or ailments. Directing patients to consult their physician for diagnosis and treatment when required. Pharmacists may be the first contact for health advice. Through basic patient assessment (i.e., observation and interview) they should identify the need for referral to a physician or an emergency department. Notifying physicians of actual or suspected adverse reactions to drugs and, when appropriate, reporting such reactions to health authorities. Providing specific information to patients and caregivers about drug therapy, taking into account patients' existing knowledge about their drug therapy. This information may include the name of the drug, its purpose, potential interactions or side effects, precautions, correct usage, methods to promote adherence to the treatment plan and any other health information appropriate to the needs of the patient. Providing and sharing general and specific drug-related information and advice with patients, caregivers, physicians, health care providers and the public. Maintaining adequate records of drug therapy to facilitate the prevention, identification and management of drug-related problems or concerns. These records should contain, but are not limited to, each patient's current and past drug therapy (including both prescribed and selected over-the-counter drugs), drug-allergy history, appropriate demographic data and, if known, the purpose of therapy and progress toward treatment goals, adverse reactions to therapy, the patient's history of adherence to treatment, attitudes toward drugs, smoking history, occupational exposure or risk, and known patterns of alcohol or substance use that may influence his or her response to drugs. Records should also document patient counselling and advice given, when appropriate. Maintaining a high level of knowledge about drug therapy through critical appraisal of the literature and continuing professional development. Care must be provided in accordance with legislation and in an atmosphere of privacy, and patient confidentiality must be maintained. Products and services should be provided in accordance with accepted scientific and ethical standards and procedures. APPENDIX II CMA POLICY Statement on Internet Prescribing The act of prescribing medication is a medical act carried out in the context of a patient-physician relationship. As such, it is subject to the clinical standards of practice, as well as the ethical guidelines of the medical profession and applicable law. Physicians should be aware of and comply with the legal requirements in their province or territory. If a physician wishes to sign a prescription for an individual who has not previously been his/her patient or a patient of his/her group practice or shared call group, basic principles of assessment and diagnosis must be applied. It is incumbent upon the physician to obtain an adequate history and perform an appropriate physical examination to reach a diagnosis which will ensure that the prescribed medications are appropriate. The physician should be expected to provide advice about any prescribed medication, and, where appropriate, would be expected to provide advice about appropriate monitoring requirements. The physician is advised to fully document the encounter. It is not acceptable for a physician to sign a prescription without properly assessing the patient. APPENDIX III CMA POLICY Principles for Providing Information about Prescription Drugs to Consumers Approved by the CMA Board of Directors, March 2003 Since the late 1990’s expenditures on direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs in the United States have increased many-fold. Though U.S.-style DTCA is not legal in Canada23, it reaches Canadians through cross-border transmission of print and broadcast media, and through the Internet. It is believed to have affected drug sales and patient behaviour in Canada. Other therapeutic products, such as vaccines and diagnostic tests, are also being marketed directly to the public. Proponents of DTCA argue that they are providing consumers with much-needed information on drugs and the conditions they treat. Others argue that the underlying intent of such advertising is to increase revenue or market share, and that it therefore cannot be interpreted as unbiased information. The CMA believes that consumers have a right to accurate information on prescription medications and other therapeutic interventions, to enable them to make informed decisions about their own health. This information is especially necessary as more and more Canadians live with chronic conditions, and as we anticipate the availability of new products that may accompany the “biological revolution”, e.g. gene therapies. The CMA recommends a review of current mechanisms, including mass media communications, for providing this information to the public. CMA believes that consumer information on prescription drugs should be provided according to the following principles. 24 Principle #1: The Goal is Good Health The ultimate measure of the effectiveness of consumer drug information should be its impact on the health and well-being of Canadians and the quality of health care. Principle #2: Ready Access Canadians should have ready access to credible, high-quality information about prescription drugs. The primary purpose of this information should be education; sales of drugs must not be a concern to the originator. Principle #3: Patient Involvement Consumer drug information should help Canadians make informed decisions regarding management of their health, and facilitate informed discussion with their physicians and other health professionals. CMA encourages Canadians to become educated about their own health and health care, and to appraise health information critically. Principle #4: Evidence-Based Content Consumer drug information should be evidence based, using generally accepted prescribing guidelines as a source where available. Principle #5: Appropriate Information Consumer drug information should be based as much as possible on drug classes and use of generic names; if discussing brand-name drugs the discussion should not be limited to a single specific brand, and brand names should always be preceded by generic names. It should provide information on the following: * indications for use of the drug * contraindications * side effects * relative cost. In addition, consumer drug information should discuss the drug in the context of overall management of the condition for which it is indicated (for example, information about other therapies, lifestyle management and coping strategies). Principle #6: Objectivity of Information Sources Consumer drug information should be provided in such a way as to minimize the impact of vested commercial interests on the information content. Possible sources include health care providers, or independent research agencies. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and patient or consumer groups can be valuable partners in this process but must not be the sole providers of information. Federal and provincial/territorial governments should provide appropriate sustaining support for the development and maintenance of up-to-date consumer drug information. Principle #7: Endorsement/ Accreditation Consumer drug information should be endorsed or accredited by a reputable and unbiased body. Information that is provided to the public through mass media channels should be pre-cleared by an independent board. Principle #8: Monitoring and Revision Consumer drug information should be continually monitored to ensure that it correctly reflects current evidence, and updated when research findings dictate. Principle #9: Physicians as Partners Consumer drug information should support and encourage open patient-physician communication, so that the resulting plan of care, including drug therapy, is mutually satisfactory. Physicians play a vital role in working with patients and other health-care providers to achieve optimal drug therapy, not only through writing prescriptions but through discussing proposed drugs and their use in the context of the overall management of the patient’s condition. In addition, physicians and other health care providers, and their associations, can play a valuable part in disseminating drug and other health information to the public. Principle #10: Research and Evaluation Ongoing research should be conducted into the impact of drug information and DTCA on the health care system, with particular emphasis on its effect on appropriateness of prescribing, and on health outcomes. APPENDIX IV CMA POLICY PRINCIPLES CONCERNING PHYSICIAN INFORMATION In an environment in which the capacity to capture, link and transmit information is growing and the need for fuller accountability is being created, the demand for physician information, and the number of people and organizations seeking to collect it, is increasing. Physician information, that is, information that includes personal health information about and information that relates or may relate to the professional activity of an identifiable physician or group of physicians, is valuable for a variety of purposes. The legitimacy and importance of these purposes varies a great deal, and therefore the rationale and rules related to the collection, use, access and disclosure of physician information also varies. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) developed this policy to provide guiding principles to those who collect, use, have access to or disclose physician information. Such people are termed “custodians,” and they should be held publicly accountable. These principles complement and act in concert with the CMA Health Information Privacy Code,25 which holds patient health information sacrosanct. Physicians have legitimate interests in what information about them is collected, on what authority, by whom and for what purposes it is collected, and what safeguards and controls are in place. These interests include privacy and the right to exercise some control over the information; protection from the possibility that information will cause unwarranted harm, either at the individual or the group level; and assurance that interpretation of the information is accurate and unbiased. These legitimate interests extend to information about physicians that has been rendered in non-identifiable or aggregate format (e.g., to protect against the possibility of individual physicians being identified or of physician groups being unjustly stigmatized). Information in these formats, however, may be less sensitive than information from which an individual physician can be readily identified and, therefore, may warrant less protection. The purposes for the use of physician information may be more or less compelling. One compelling use is related to the fact that physicians, as members of a self-regulating profession, are professionally accountable to their patients, their profession and society. Physicians support this professional accountability purpose through the legislated mandate of their regulatory colleges. Physicians also recognize the importance of peer review in the context of professional development and maintenance of competence. The CMA supports the collection, use, access and disclosure of physician information subject to the conditions outlined below. 1. Purpose(s): The purpose(s) for the collection of physician information, and any other purpose(s) for which physician information may be subsequently used, accessed or disclosed, should be precisely specified at or before the collection. There should be a reasonable expectation that the information will achieve the stated purpose(s). The policy does not prevent the use of information for purposes that were not intended and not reasonably anticipated if principles 3 and 4 of this policy are met. 2. Consent: As a rule, information should be collected directly from the physician. Subject to principle 4, consent should be sought from the physician for the collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information. The physician should be informed about all intended and anticipated uses, accesses or disclosures of the information. 3. Conditions for collection, use, access and disclosure: The information should: * be limited to the minimum necessary to carry out the stated purpose(s), * be in the least intrusive format required for the stated purpose(s), and its collection, use, access and disclosure should not infringe on the physician’s duty of confidentiality with respect to that information. 4. Use of information without consent: There may be justification for the collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information without the physician’s consent if, in addition to the conditions in principle 3 being met, the custodian publicly demonstrates with respect to the purpose(s), generically construed, that: * the stated purpose(s) could not be met or would be seriously compromised if consent were required, * the stated purpose(s) is(are) of sufficient importance that the public interest outweighs to a substantial degree the physician’s right to privacy and right of consent in a free and democratic society, and * that the collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information with respect to the stated purpose(s) always ensures justice and fairness to the physician by being consistent with principle 6 of this policy. 5. Physician’s access to his or her own information: Physicians have a right to view and ensure, in a timely manner, the accuracy of the information collected about them. This principle does not apply if there is reason to believe that the disclosure to the physician will cause substantial adverse effect to others. The onus is on the custodian to justify a denial of access. 6. Information quality and interpretation: Custodians must take reasonable steps to ensure that the information they collect, use, gain access to or disclose is accurate, complete and correct. Custodians must use valid and reliable collection methods and, as appropriate, involve physicians to interpret the information; these physicians must have practice characteristics and credentials similar to those of the physician whose information is being interpreted. 7. Security: Physical and human safeguards must exist to ensure the integrity and reliability of physician information and to protect against unauthorized collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information. 8. Retention and destruction: Physician information should be retained only for the length of time necessary to fulfill the specified purpose(s), after which time it should be destroyed. 9. Inquiries and complaints: Custodians must have in place a process whereby inquiries and complaints can be received, processed and adjudicated in a fair and timely way. The complaint process, including how to initiate a complaint, must be made known to physicians. 10. Openness and transparency: Custodians must have transparent and explicit record-keeping or database management policies, practices and systems that are open to public scrutiny, including the purpose(s) for the collection, use, access and disclosure of physician information. The existence of any physician information record-keeping systems or database systems must be made known and available upon request to physicians. 11. Accountability: Custodians of physician information must ensure that they have proper authority and mandate to collect, use, gain access to or disclose physician information. Custodians must have policies and procedures in place that give effect to the principles in this document. Custodians must have a designated person who is responsible for monitoring practices and ensuring compliance with the policies and procedures. 1 Romanow R. Building on Values: the Future of Health Care in Canada. Report of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada; November 2002. 2 Chobanian et al. Seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. JAMA 2003; 289. 3 Butler C, Rollnick S, Stott N. The practitioner, the patient and resistance to change. Recent Ideas on Compliance 1996;14(9):1357-62. 4 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Health spending to top $112 billion in 2002, reports CIHI. Media release. December 18, 2002. http://secure.cihi.ca/cihiweb/dispPage.jsp?cw_page=media_18dec2002_e 5 Patent Medicine Prices Review Board. Pharmaceutical Trends, 1995/96 – 1999/00. Prepared for the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Drug Prices; September 2001. 6 Patent Medicine Prices Review Board, A study of the Prices of the Top Selling Multiple Source Medicines in Canada. November 2002. 7 Approaches to Enhancing the Quality of Drug Therapy.” Joint policy of the Canadian Medical Association and Canadian Pharmacists Association. 8 It should be noted that the CMA does not have the authority to enforce directives on physicians with regard to prescribing. The provincial and Territorial Colleges of Physicians handle licensing and regulatory matters. 9 Manitoba, British Columbia and Saskatchewan provide some coverage to all residents after the co-payments and deductibles are paid. Quebec provides universal coverage to those not in a private plan. 10 Fraser Group/Tristat Resources. Drug Expense Coverage in the Canadian Population – Protection from Severe Drug Expenses. CLHIA. August 2002. 11 Palmer D’Angelo Consulting Inc. National Pharmacare Cost Impact Update Study. Executive Summary. September 4, 2002. 12 Ibid 13 Tynan T. Cash-strapped Springfield, Mass., begins buying Canadian prescription drugs. Edmonton Journal July 29, 2003. http://www.canada.com/edmonton/story.asp?id=21FB8445-1143-4C13-B282-76F380CB4FE1 14 CBSNews.com. Illinois looks to Canada for drugs. CBS News September 15, 2003. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/29/health/main565611.shtml 15Kedrosky P. Dangerous popularity of online pharmacies. National Post August 13, 2003. 16 Harris G. Pfizer moves to stem Canadian drug imports. New York Times August 7, 2003. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/07/business/07DRUG.html 17 Cusack B., Stinson S. US drug firms set to boycott Canada. National Post August 7, 2003. http://www.nationalpost.com/home/story.html?id=363CC2EA-1832-42F2-954C-0F52D1828E23 18 “Prescription Drugs and Mass Media Advertising.” National Institute for Health Care Management Research. Washington, DC, 2001. 19 Mintzes B, Barer ML, Kravitz RL at al. How does direct to consumer advertising affect prescribing? a survey in primary care environments with and without legal DTCA. CMAJ 169 (2003): 405 –412. 20 Food and Drug Administration. Direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs: physician survey preliminary results. Accessed at www.fda.gov/cder/ddmac. 21Survey shows strong opposition to direct to consumer advertising. Accessed at http://www.cma.ca/cma/ 22 Canadian Coalition on Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention. A medication incident reporting and prevention system for Canada: business Plan. March 2002. 23 DTCA is not legal in Canada, except for notification of price, quantity and the name of the drug. However, “information-seeking” advertisements for prescription drugs, which may provide the name of the drug without mentioning its indications, or announce that treatments are available for specific indications without mentioning drugs by name, have appeared in Canadian mass media. 24 Though the paper applies primarily to prescription drug information, its principles are also applicable to health information in general. 25 Canadian Medical Association. Health Information Privacy Code. CMAJ 1998;159(8):997-1016.
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