Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | December 8, 2017

  • The federal government plans to overhaul the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board to save $12.6 billion over the next decade from lower drug prices. The proposed reforms include considering value in pricing, changing countries used in price comparisons, and requiring drug companies to report discounts and rebates to reveal the true prices of their products.
  • Veterans are at “significantly higher risk” of death from suicide than the general population of Canada, according to a study by Veterans Affairs Canada. The study found an increased risk of 36% for male veterans and 81% for female veterans.
  • The First Nations and Inuit Health branch at Health Canada was reassigned to Indigenous Services Minister Dr. Jane Philpott. The Liberal government also promised to increase funding in the next federal budget to close gaps in services for children on reserves.
  • Ontario declared a public health emergency in response to a surge in opioid deaths, and the federal government granted the province permission to open temporary safe-injection sites without further sign off. Between May and July, 336 people died from opioid overdoses in Ontario, up 68% from last year.   
  • Quebec announced $35 million to launch the first public psychotherapy program in Canada. The province will create a registry of recognized psychotherapists and provide public coverage for an estimated 600 000 appointments.
  • Ontario’s auditor general reported gaps in cancer care in the province, noting that more than half of biopsies and urgent surgeries for most cancers are not performed within the 14-day target. The report also noted that the full costs of cancer drugs are not covered unless treatment is administered in hospital.
  • Health officials in Alberta urged people to get flu shots even though the vaccine may not be effective against this year’s predominant strain. Reports from Australia indicate effectiveness was only 10% for H3N2, but officials say the shot offers better protection against other strains and may reduce the severity of illness.
  • A study of Manitoba’s health system recommended organizational mergers and ending funding for some services, including outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy. The report recommended merging the province’s five health authorities, a move already underway, and folding some smaller health organizations into larger entities.
  • Alberta medical students lobbied the province to invest tax revenue from legal marijuana into youth mental health programs. “We know that chronic cannabis use can lead to poorer mental health and that people with mental illness are more likely to develop cannabis dependence,” said Howie Wu of the University of Alberta Medical Students’ Association.
  • Computer outages at health facilities across New Brunswick forced staff to stop some services and turn away patients; one oncology department cancelled about 100 appointments. Service New Brunswick said technical staff have identified the cause of the problem but did not know how long it would take to fix.

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