The Pharmawatch Canada blog is an initiative of PharmaWatch. Pharmawatch is an independent, Canadian, non-profit organization that was founded in 2001 to examine issues related to the health and safety of medical products and to support consumer reporting of suspected adverse drug reactions.
Members of the board of PharmaWatch Canada have launched this blog to shed light on some of the most significant policy, research, legislative and program issues related to the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs, vaccines and medical devices in Canada. We believe that the Canadian public, patients, physicians, policy analysts, researchers, academics, authors, politicians and the media have a right to know how our drug approval and monitoring system works, how it compares to other international jurisdictions, the factors influencing decision making and whether Health Canada is protecting our health and safety.
Many, perhaps most Canadians, believe that prescription drugs, vaccines and medical devices are widely tested before being submitted to a rigorous approval process and, after being deemed safe and effective, are continuously monitored once they are on the market and being used. They may think that new drugs on the market are approved because of exciting and innovative research and that the newest drugs are often the best and safest choice even though they are the most expensive.
Canadians would likely be surprised to learn that many drug trials are conducted for only short periods of time, do not include individuals who represent the Canadian population as a whole, or even the intended market for the drug.
Most people do not realize that most serious adverse drug reactions occur AFTER a drug is on the market when it is being used by tens of thousands of people and that the system of tracking these reactions is limited, underfunded and relies mainly on the information that industry provides. As a result, only between 1% and 10% of all adverse drug reactions are reported to Health Canada.
Most Canadians also are unaware that Health Canada — which is responsible for protecting the health and safety of Canadians — now spends three times more on approving drugs than on monitoring their safety once they’re on the market.
We will be publishing blogs on subjects as diverse as the Canadian diabetes industry, the drug regulatory system and the changes that will be put in place over the next few months. We will challenge the theory that a “chemical imbalance” in the brain causes depression, whether reducing cholesterol actually results in fewer heart attacks and strokes, how the industry funds “patient” groups to do their lobbying for them and how public health is sometimes being sacrificed to lobbying pressures.
PharmaWatch and the PharmaWatch blog do not accept any money from pharmaceutical corporations, medical device manufacturers or their sponsored organizations. We have no relationship to industry sponsored organizations with similar names.
We welcome your ideas for blog subjects and your suggestions for how to make our blog accessible to a broad audience. And we hope you will enjoy reading some of the best commentary in Canada on how we can make sure our regulatory system works for the public good, and not for the interests of Big Pharma.