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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | May 19, 2017

  • Federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott proposed amendments to the way drug prices are regulated, including changing the list of countries used for comparisons and weighing value for money in decisions on excessive pricing. The online consultation on the proposed amendments will run from May 16 to June 28.
  • Health Canada relaxed restrictions on the abortion drug Mifegymiso. The federal government will no longer require pharmacists to complete a training program to fill prescriptions of the drug, and Health Canada will allow provinces to set their own rules on physician dispensing.
  • Less than 20% of Health Canada staff completed mandatory training on ethics, values and conflicts of interest between 2013 and 2016, Canada’s auditor general reported. Additionally, many conflicts of interest declared by employees took too long to resolve and measures for mitigating ethics risks were sometimes not implemented.
  • The judge presiding over a constitutional challenge to restrictions on private health care had sinus surgery at a private clinic, provided by a surgeon who is due to appear in court as a witness. British Columbia Supreme Court Justice John Steeves disclosed the information to lawyers involved in the trial, which is on hold until the fall.
  • Ontario doctors and the province reached a tentative agreement to resolve contract disputes through binding arbitration if they can’t strike a deal through negotiation and mediation. The doctors have been without a contract for three years but recently returned to the bargaining table with the province.
  • Alberta opposition critics called for an investigation into the relationship between Alberta Health Deputy Minister Carl Amrhein and Pure North, a private alternative health foundation that received ministry funding. CBC reported that Amrhein lobbied Alberta Health for more funding for Pure North, and signed a $4.2-million grant on behalf of the ministry, despite warnings from officials that the foundation’s program wasn’t supported by science.
  • Health professionals issued a scathing review of Nova Scotia’s merged health authority, saying the system is subject to political interference and “timely decisions are lost in complicated and irrational top down program bureaucracies.” They urged the government to create “four functional zones” to ensure clinical decisions reflect local needs, while continuing to manage some administration centrally, such as payroll and collective bargaining.
  • Almost 80% of street drugs tested at a Vancouver safe injection site were laced with illicit fentanyl, according to a study presented at an international harm reduction conference in Montreal. Researchers tested more than 1000 drug samples between July 2016 and March 2017.
  • There were 9.2 million opioid prescriptions in Ontario in 2015-16, an increase of 5% from 2013. At least 551 Ontarians died from opioid overdose in 2015, up from 421 in 2010.
  • Saskatchewan earned top marks in Canada on 63 measures of food system performance, the Conference Board of Canada reported. Saskatchewan led the provinces on measures of food safety and household food security, British Columbia earned ‘A’ grades on healthy diets and environmental sustainability, and the Atlantic provinces trailed with the lowest grades overall.

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