Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | April 7, 2017

  • Canadians undergo more than a million potentially unnecessary tests and treatments each year, the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported. The study of eight medical interventions found that as many as 30% were performed against the recommendations of expert guidelines.
  • A public consultation revealed strong opposition to proposed regulations that would allow Health Canada to pull unsafe cosmetics and natural health products from stores. Much of the opposition appears to stem from an advocacy campaign by the natural health industry that promoted misconceptions, including the inaccurate claim that Health Canada intends to regulate the products as drugs.
  • Quebec is re-examining whether to allow people with degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer disease to request assisted death through advance directives. Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said the province will also ask the courts to clarify the federal law’s limit of the practice to people facing a “reasonably foreseeable” death, which health professionals have deemed too vague.
  • Ontario is setting up a central coordinating center for assisted death that will directly connect patients seeking the service to willing physicians, bypassing doctors with moral and religious objections. The coordinating center will open as early as May.
  • Major changes are coming to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, including the closure of emergency services at three hospitals, two of which will be converted into urgent care facilities. The province directed the health authority to find $83 million in savings for 2017-2018.
  • The British Columbia government offered an “unqualified and comprehensive” apology to health researchers who were fired over a data breach in 2012, including the family of a student researcher who subsequently killed himself. An ombudsman report revealed that the government “did not have sufficient evidentiary basis to dismiss any of the employees,” and misled the public about the investigation.
  • A breach of BC’s PharmaNet system, which logs every prescription that’s dispensed in the province, is now thought to affect some 20 500 people. The police confirmed that some of the compromised data were used for fraudulent purposes and the government is offering free credit monitoring services to all people who might be affected.
  • A CBC investigation revealed that Alberta Health provided a $10-million grant to expand an unproven alternative “wellness” program, against the advice of officials who warned the program could not provide the health or economic benefits it claimed and could lead to adverse effects in participants.  The Pure North S’Energy Foundation provides high-dose vitamin and mineral supplements (in some cases far above safe intake levels) and treatments to remove heavy metals from the blood to vulnerable populations at homeless shelters and on reserves.
  • An Ontario health agency raised alarm about cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) among miners who were exposed to McIntyre Powder, an aluminum dust that was once thought to protect their lungs. Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers reported seven cases of ALS in a group of just over 300 miners; the rare disease usually occurs at a rate of two cases per 100 000 people.
  • A recall of EpiPen epinephrine injectors expanded to include Canada, the United States, and countries in Europe, Asia and South America. In Canada, the recall impacts one lot of the 0.3 mg strength of EpiPen Auto-Injector expiring in May 2017 and one lot of the 0.15 mg strength of EpiPen Jr Auto-Injector expiring in March 2017..

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  • The government of Newfoundland and Labrador eliminated 93 health care positions as part of an effort to reduce its management structure. The cuts will not affect health services, promised the province’s health minister, Dr. John Haggie.
  • There have been 51 confirmed cases of mumps in Alberta, nearly half of them in Edmonton. There were only eight cases of mumps in Edmonton all of last year, according to Alberta Health Services.
  • Hundred of family doctors in Nova Scotia are owed $6 million by the province’s government. The delayed payments, ranging from $1000 to $35 000, are for services covered under the province’s Comprehensive Care Incentive Program, such as house calls and nursing home visits.
  • Canadians aged 40-59 use condoms less often than younger people, according to a University of Guelph study published in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. A survey of people in that age range (married, divorced, single and widowed) found that 65% of men and 72% of women did not use a condom during their last sexual encounter.
  • Canadian businessman Jim Pattison donated $75 million to the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation in Vancouver, which will be used to build a medical and research centre. It is the largest donation by a private citizen to a single medical facility in Canadian history, according to the foundation.

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