Prominent doctors call for the B.C. Liberals to restore funding for pharmaceutical watchdog

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      A growing number of doctors and health workers are calling on the provincial government to restore funding for a renowned pharmaceutical watchdog based out of UBC.

      In an open letter addressed to Premier Christy Clark and Health Minister Terry Lake, health-care professionals highlight the Therapeutics Initiative’s accomplishments and criticize the B.C. Liberals’ decision to defund the research group.

      “The Therapeutics Initiative should be proudly held up as a model to be strengthened in British Columbia and replicated nationally,” the letter reads. “Instead, without any official explanation to the TI, your government has suspended the TI’s funding.”

      It concludes: “We ask you to show your government’s commitment to safe and effective drug prescribing in British Columbia, and to ensuring the health and safety of all citizens. We urge your government to restore funding to the Therapeutics Initiative immediately.”

      A petition launched to coincide with the letter’s publication has so far garnered more than 1,100 signatures.

      The campaign is led by Canadian Doctors for Medicare, an advocacy group that campaigns for health-care reform.

      A number of prominent names appear among those who have signed the petition.

      “The Therapeutics Initiative has been, not just British Columbia's, but Canada's best example of evidence-based health care,” wrote Dr. David L. Sackett, a pioneer of clinical epidemiology. “If you kill it, it will hurt patients, increase health care costs, and severely tarnish your image as a caring, thoughtful government.”

      Dr. John Yudkin, notable for his contributions to clinical pharmacology, described the Therapeutics Initiative as a vital service. “The loss of the Therapeutics Initiative will lead to worse prescribing, greater costs, and greater hazards for Canadian patients and those who pay the health care bills,” he wrote.

      The number of statements of support continues to grow on the petition’s website.

      Under the leadership of then Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid, the B.C. Liberal government eliminated funding for the Therapeutics Initiative in April 2013 (at the time, the group's annual budget had already been reduced to $550,000). That was the culmination of a series of cuts that began under former premier Gordon Campbell.

      In 2008, the B.C. Liberal government created a panel stacked in favour of the pharmaceutical industry and tasked it with a mandate to instruct the Ministry of Health on how it should reform B.C.’s PharmaCare program. The PTF suggested the Therapeutics Initiative be stripped of its two primary functions: drug-submission review and education.

      More recently, in June 2012, the ministry blocked researchers’ access to a database that served as the Therapeutics Initiative’s primary source of information for pharmaceutical drug use in B.C.

      Since late August 2013, the B.C. Ministry of Health has refused eight requests submitted by the Straight for an interview on the topics of the Therapeutics Initiative and a Ministry investigation related to researchers’ access to data.

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      carol l. cooper

      Oct 11, 2013 at 3:28pm

      I think it is not just the doctor's faults to worry about, it is the drugs the pharmacists use and the pharmaceutical companies that provide poor medicine for people. I wonder, even, that some seem more poisons than medicines. My doctor has tried to improve the system in how he proscribes, yet the choice of the pharmacists make him seem to blame. Maybe his is? I wonder. Maybe the drug companies are serving us poisons. And placebos from doctors at times.

      Alan Layton

      Oct 12, 2013 at 9:45am

      After the report from the University of Guelph on Friday, they also need a 'natural medicine' watchdog. In the investigation they checked 44 herbal drugs for the DNA of the main ingredient and in 30% of the samples they found that the ingredient was not present at all and another plant substituted. In some of those cases harmful plants were present instead and had nothing to do with the original claims. There were many other inconsistencies like unlisted additives, including rice, wheat and soy added as fillers. When Health Canada was asked about this they said that there is no need for them to intervene because they monitor the herbal remedies safety and effectiveness. This is complete BS because the only way to ensure both is to do comprehensive and extremely expensive clinical testing, which takes years. All of the Pharmaceutical companies have to do this and herbal remedies do not. All of their data is anecdotal and unrecorded. It's about time these charlatans were taken to task, not only for safety, but also to prove that the remedies actually do what they claim they do. How much is merely the placebo affect? Probably a large proportion of them.

      Restore The Therapeutics Initiative

      Oct 13, 2013 at 8:44am

      The Therapeutics Initiative should be restored. The Provincial government is obviously siding with industry. What a ridiculous decision to kill the program (and perhaps also causing a suicide as a result??). SO obvious. I can't believe these idiots got voted back in.