Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | August 4, 2017

  • Health Canada approved the country’s third pay-for-plasma clinic despite warnings from Canadian Blood Services that allowing such clinics to proliferate will jeopardize voluntary blood donation. The warning letter cited a poll that found half of Canadians would rather give plasma for money than donate to the voluntary system.
  • The number of publicly funded opioid prescriptions increased in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island by 26% between 2010 and 2015, despite warning about the risks of the painkillers. The drugs cost the provinces nearly $52 million over that period.
  • Ontario appointed a commissioner for a public inquiry into systemic problems in long-term care that may have contributed to the murders of eight seniors by a nurse. The commissioner will file recommendations for improving the safety of seniors by July 2019.
  • Alberta Health Services will pilot an opioid dependency advice phone line for primary care physicians and nurse practitioners. Starting Aug. 8, four opioid dependence specialists will staff the hotline on a rotating basis and answer questions within hours or the next business day.
  • Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said he will investigate a pharmaceutical marketing practice that involves the use of electronic medical records (EMR) to sell drugs. Telus Health inserts electronic vouchers into its EMR software that may influence patients to choose brand-name drugs over cheaper generic alternatives.
  • Fundraising and cost-cutting won’t be enough to cover the University of Saskatchewan medical school’s expected $57-million deficit, which was “exacerbated” by the province holding back $40 million in funding in 2015 and 2016. The medical school costs about $93 million to run each year since it underwent an overhaul to maintain accreditation.
  • The Nova Scotia Health Authority has conducted exit interviews with just 3 of 25 physicians who left or retired from the province’s eastern zone after committing last year to get to the bottom of the exodus. Doctors Nova Scotia is deploying community outreach specialists to listen to doctors’ concerns and offer support to prevent more departures.
  • A Reuters investigation into deaths at provincial jails over the past five years found that 174 people died awaiting trial, compared to 80 who died while serving sentences. Suicide and untreated health conditions were among the top causes, though the causes of 46 deaths were “undetermined.”
  • The number of black medical students at the University of Toronto will increase to at least four this year, from only one in 2016, thanks to the Community of Support program, which helps black, Indigenous and low-income students to navigate the application process. The program helped 16 other students gain acceptance to medical schools in the United States, the Caribbean and elsewhere in Canada.
  • Ontario will cover the cost of the abortion medication Mifegymiso starting Aug. 10. The drug currently costs $300.

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