health canada

The economics of GMO labelling laws

Scaremongering by environmental activists has been effective in shaping popular opinion about GMOs.
Printer-friendly version
Ever Higher-Government spending on Canada's Aboriginals since 1947

This study provides a fact-based look at the claim that public spending on Canada's Aboriginal population is inadequate. It does so by examining actual spending on Aboriginal Canadians using four sources: the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Health Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada, and provincial governments.

The increase in spending on Canada's Aboriginal peoples has been significant regardless of the source looked at. For instance, accounting for inflation, in the department of Aboriginal Affairs, spending on Canada's Aboriginal peoples rose to almost $7.9 billion in 2011/12 from $79 million annually in 1946/47. Per First Nations person, such spending rose to $9,056 by 2011/12 from $922 per person in 1949/50. That constitutes an 882 percent rise in spending per First Nations person. In comparison, total federal program spending per person on all Canadians rose by 387 percent, to $7,316 in 2011/12 from $1,504 in 1949/50.

In addition, some government spending is directed to Aboriginal Canadians not because of treaty or constitutional obligations but because of policy decisions and for items most Canadians must either pay for out of pocket or for which they must purchase insurance. An example is how Health Canada provides $1.1 billion annually for dental care, vision care and pharmaceutical coverage for eligible First Nations and Inuit peoples.

The study's numbers are partial, an under-estimate, and conservative. Federally, only three departments were examined for spending on Aboriginals. Provincial sources were chronicled but there may well have been additional expenditures not explicitly identified and thus missed. Municipal and territorial spending was not analyzed.

This partial look at three federal departments and provincial government spending reveals spending on Canada's Aboriginal population that has risen substantially in real (after-inflation) terms, whether measured in spending in the particular department, in comparison with overall government program spending (federal or provincial), or in relevant per-person comparisons.

Giving Canadians faster access to new medicines

Innovative new medicines can have a profound impact on the health and wellbeing of those stricken with illness. Unfortunately, Canadians are often denied these benefits for months, if not years, while they wait for their government to approve drugs already deemed safe and effective by regulators in the European Union and United States. Smarter regulation could save resources, reduce patient suffering, and improve the lives of Canadians.

Printer-friendly version

This study aims to measure the difference in access to new medicines that results from duplication of effort in Canada. By compiling a list of new drugs approved in Canada between 2005-2011/12 (Health Canada moved from calendar-year to fiscal-year reporting in 2011/12), and comparing the corresponding approval dates with those in the United States and the European Union.

Modern medicines improve both health outcomes and quality of life for those stricken with illness, and their ability to do so continues to improve and advance over time. Every day, researchers and scientists work to come up with new and innovative ways to treat illnesses, mitigate suffering, and prolong life while research-based pharmaceutical companies invest in the development and testing necessary to bring these innovations to market.

The medicines that are available today are not only able to treat illnesses that could not previously be treated, but also represent a substitution for older, less efficient, and less effective methods of treatment. Even in cases where medicines may not have a different impact therapeutically, they can expand access to better health through reductions in adverse events and reactions, and may work better for some parts of the population poorly served by previous advances.

However, access to these newer (and superior) pharmaceuticals is not equal across developed countries. This is, in part, the result of governmental regulations and approvals. Critically, new medicines are only accessible by the public after they have been granted regulatory clearance by the host jurisdiction?s responsible body such as Health Canada , the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The efficiency with which these agencies approve drugs and the numbers of drugs ultimately approved varies considerably between these regulatory authorities.

While the potential for harm that accompanies any new medicine on the market may provide some justification for regulatory approval in general, the question of why such approval is duplicated in one jurisdiction (e.g., Canada) while it is being undertaken in another with comparable standards (e.g., Europe) remains. Indeed, to the extent submissions to these agencies and their efficiency in approving them vary, such duplication of effort reinforces the unfortunate reality that drugs are available to patients in different countries, at different points in time.

This study aims to measure the difference in access to new medicines that results from duplication of effort in Canada. By compiling a list of new drugs approved in Canada between 2005-2011/12 (Health Canada moved from calendar-year to fiscal-year reporting in 2011/12), and comparing the corresponding approval dates with those in the United States and the European Union, we seek to provide Canadians an estimate of how much sooner these new drugs would have been available to them in the absence of what might be considered an unnecessary regulatory hurdle imposed by Health Canada.

Cutting Canada's Drug Lag while Improving Safety

New medicines are a central component of modern medical care, treating illness effectively, providing more comfortable treatment regimes, extending life and reducing disability, and sometimes offering new treatment options where none previously existed. However, these benefits come with the potential for harm, which is why governments around the world regulate access to new medicines.

Printer-friendly version

This study measures delays in the approval of new medicines by Health Canada and provides patients with the information they need in order to determine whether the time they wait for access to new medicines in Canada is unnecessarily long.

Our findings reveal that Canadian approval delays are not insignificant. The most recent estimates calculated show that Health Canada took a median of 355 days to issue a notice of compliance for patented medicines in 2011?an improvement from the 448 days it took in 2010. Between 2007 and 2011, Canadians could generally expect a delay of nearly a year or more for access to new medicines after submission for approval. That delay was longer than experienced in Europe for most years during that period. It was also longer than experienced under the US FDA for between two and four of the five years studied.

While the requirement for governmental approval for sale is not unique to Canada, the process can add further delays for Canadians seeking treatment from these new medicines. An important question that arises from this comparison is the value of duplicating the application of safety standards between jurisdictions. Given the similarity of international safety standards and the relatively small size of the population served by Health Canada?s mandatory approval process, Canada?s federal government could improve access to new medicines through international harmonization and mutual recognition agreements.

Idle No More protests choose the wrong targets

In the wake of the Idle No More protests that have blocked railway lines and have hinted at more mischief, multiple grievances have been advanced in place of clear-headed analyses. But none of the slogans, clichés and guilt-tripping get to the bottom of why some Aboriginals, especially on reserves, are in a sorry state.

First, some misinformation about one supposed reason for the protests, that reserves will be broken up by Bill C-45, should be debunked.

That recent federal legislation allows First Nations to lease some of their land to others if they so choose.