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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2011

MPs Call for Restored Funding for Drug Watchdog Group at UBC

Under threat from the BC government, an internationally acclaimed drug watchdog group based at the University of Bri­tish Columbia has received endorsement from three federal politicians.

Conservative Terence Young, Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh and New Democrat Jean Crowder threw their support behind the Therapeutics Initiative, saying they want core funding preserved for the beleaguered group.

“The decision by the Campbell government to cut the TI’s funding by almost half is jeopardizing the group’s survival and ability to continue all of its important work, including in the drug assessment process,” said Young, an Ontario MP and author of Death by Prescription, while addressing a record crowd of physicians, health policy experts and others at a cross-party event recently in Vancouver organized by CAUT and the Canadian Health Coalition.

“This will no doubt result in preventable deaths from dangerous use of new prescription drugs, so I urge the BC government to reverse this decision.”

On Jan. 21 the provincial government tried to downplay the impact of its response to recommendations of an industry-dominated pharmaceutical task force by announcing that the TI was being offered contracts worth $150,000 to conduct clinical evidence reviews.

“What’s ironic is that the government simultaneously confirmed it’s cutting $450,000 from the $1-million budget of the TI,” said CAUT executive director James Turk. “The government is carrying out the wishes of Big Pharma by undermining the ability of this vital UBC research and public interest group to survive.”

Dosanjh, the MP for Vancouver-South and health critic for the Official Opposition, said the TI is a model of independent drug assessment that should be saved in BC and adopted across Canada.

“It is the cornerstone of a universal, public pharmacare program, grounded in evidence not marketing hype,” said Dosanjh.

Crowder, who represents Nanaimo-Cowi­chan, charged that what’s happening in BC is part of “a broader campaign by the pharmaceutical industry to get dangerous new drugs to market faster. First they get Health Canada to weaken safety standards for approvals and then they pressure provinces to pay for unsafe and expensive new drugs … It’s time to put a stop to this abuse and get back to putting health protection ahead of profit-making rationality.”