(NaturalNews) A recent report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives criticizes Health Canada's drug safety regulations, claiming that Canadians are at risk due to speedy approval procedures and negligent safety profiling once the drugs are on the market.
"In Canada 3-4% of drugs approved will eventually be withdrawn from the market because of safety issues and the number of people exposed to these drugs is increasing because of aggressive marketing tactics by the pharmaceutical industry," says author Joel Lexchin, in a summary of the report, which is entitled Drug Safety and Health Canada: Going, Going... Gone?
According to his report, there are limitations to the Food and Drugs Act in Canada. Health Canada has the power to cancel market authorization for drugs prior to approval, and it can issue a public warning without the manufacturer's agreement, he writes. But it cannot force drug companies to recall drugs from pharmacy shelves, nor can it compel a company to revise its product labeling to update safety information.
The report claims that these limitations are due to Health Canada's favoring rapid approval times for new drugs, showing the regulatory organization's misguided priorities.
Dr. Lexchin, who teaches at Toronto's York University and who has consulted on pharmaceutical issues for the province of Ontario and the World Health Organization, offers a number of suggestions for improving Health Canada's post-marketing pharmaco-surveillance system, including:
Health Canada needs to devote significantly more resources to its post-marketing pharmaco-surveillance system.
Health Canada should undertake a systematic study to examine whether faster drug approvals lead to more post-marketing safety issues.
Health Canada needs to publicly and transparently explain what criteria it uses in issuing safety communications.
Health Canada needs to stop treating safety information as confidential and commit to making all safety information publicly available promptly after approving a new drug.
"Within the Canadian drug regulatory system, democratic values such as openness, safety and objective information have been ignored as Health Canada consciously opts instead for a drug regulatory system that reflects the interests of private industry," Lexchin explains.
The author mentions three drugs that were pulled from the shelves in the U.S. and which exposed 6.4 million people to their health dangers. It also notes that two of the five most heavily promoted drugs in Canada in 2000 were eventually withdrawn because of safety concerns.
The report also includes a data chart that indicates that even drugs that have been on the market for years cannot necessarily be regarded as safe.