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Roger Collier | CMAJ | April 28, 2017

  • The Ontario government announced, as part of its annual budget, that all prescription drugs would be free to any resident of the province under the age of 25 under its proposed pharmacare plan. If approved, the program would cover 4400 medications and cost a projected $465 million a year, starting Jan. 1, 2018.
  • There were at least 803 medically assisted deaths in Canada in the six months after the practice became legal across the country, according to a Health Canada interim update. Including the 167 assisted deaths in Quebec prior to nationwide legalization, at least 970 Canadians died with medical assistance between Dec. 10, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016.
  • Health Canada will allow health authorities to import a year’s supply of prescription-grade heroin to help treat opioid addiction. Previously, facilities that used the drug, which isn’t available domestically, had to order it on an as-needed basis.
  • The general adult population shouldn’t be screened for hepatitis C, recommended the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care. This recommendation doesn’t apply to adults who are at higher risk of having the hepatitis C virus, such as injection-drug users and former prison inmates.
  • Federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott said she is frustrated by the lack of timely reporting of overdose deaths by provinces and territories. Only British Columbia and Alberta have regularly reported overdose deaths; the most recent statistics in some provinces are from 2014.
  • Governments should treat obesity like a chronic disease and improve public coverage for interventions such as bariatric surgery, according to the Canadian Obesity Network. Wait times for the surgery can exceed five years, according to the network, and anti-obesity drugs aren’t covered by drug formularies.
  • The federal government and Brain Canada Foundation announced $29 million in public-private funding for 18 new brain research projects. The projects will involve more than 200 researchers, who will study brain diseases and disorders, including depression, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The leader of British Columbia’s New Democratic Party (NDP), John Horgan, promised to build new public medical facilities if his party is elected, and claimed that the Liberal party would build more private hospitals. However, the leader of Liberal party, Premier Christy Clark, said her party is dedicated to a robust public health care system.
  • About 600 nurses, and other health workers, rallied before the Manitoba Legislature to protest health care cuts that they say will compromise patient care. The province’s government plans to close three emergency rooms, reduce health management positions by 15% and make other cuts to trim the province’s health care budget.
  • Ste-Justine Children’s Hospital in Montreal inaugurated a new research centre called the TransMedTech Institute. Multidisciplinary research teams, which will also include patients and engineers, will work together at the institute to develop medical technologies in three areas: musculoskeletal diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

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