Letters To Government · Opinions

Big Pharma’s role in the opioid epidemic is the elephant in the room no politician wants to talk about.

G.P.D.O.T.S. has wrote numerous letters to government over the last six years on a wide variety of topics related to the opioid epidemic. We almost always receive some sort of response whether its a standard “thanks for your letter and we will be in touch” or a more meaningful and genuine reply to discuss the topic further.

One issue we have written government on and have failed to trigger a response or acknowledgement of is big pharma’s role in the Canadian opioid epidemic. On June 21st, 2015 our organization wrote the federal Minister of Health at the time Rona Ambrose as well as provincial and territorial Ministers of Health. Our letter detailed our concerns surrounding the misleading marketing of OxyContin where Purdue Pharma downplayed the risks of the drug while overstating its benefits with no accountability for their actions. We highlighted how big pharma’s influence on physicians in Canada is poorly regulated and these conflicts of interest can have harmful consequences. We asked that government do a better job in regulating how pharmaceutical companies market their products and influence physicians and policy makers. We only received one response which came from the B.C. Department of Health thanking us for our letter but did not address any of our concerns.

Almost two years later in  January 2017, Get Prescription Drugs off the Street Society and Moms Stop The Harm teamed up and decided to write both federal, provincial, and territorial governments on the issue again. There had been changes in many elected positions including the Federal Minister of Health and we thought we might get a better response this time.  We again asked if the Standing Committee on Health’s 2013 recommendation to have Health Canada review, in cooperation with stakeholders, inappropriate marketing practices that have an effect on prescribing practices has occurred and if so what was the outcome? We asked that pharmaceutical companies who fraudulently marketed opioids be held legally accountable and any fines paid be used for addiction treatment and harm reduction initiatives. We printed and mailed hard copies as well as emailed digital copies of the letter to all Ministers of Health in Canada. Four months later, we have yet to receive a single response.

Why is Canada hesitating to create any form of accountability for the pharmaceutical industry who’s actions helped trigger the opioid epidemic in Canada? In the last 12 months Purdue Pharma has lobbied the following government agencies on a variety of topics:

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
Global Affairs Canada
Health Canada (HC)
House of Commons
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Justice Canada (JC)
Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB)
Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)
Privy Council Office (PCO)
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
Public Safety Canada (PS)
Senate of Canada

They also lobbied the following individuals:

Kevin Sorenson, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Ralph Goodale, Minister Public Safety Canada (PS)
David Hurl, Director of Policy | Office of the Minister, Public Safety Canada (PS)
Marci Surkes, Chief of Staff | Office of the Minister, Public Safety Canada (PS)
Vernon White, Senator Senate of Canada
Kelvin Ogilvie, Senator Senate of Canada
Colin Carrie, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Hilary Geller, Assistant Deputy Minister
Jennifer O’Connell, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Peter Harder, Senator Senate of Canada
Colin Carrie, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Gordon Brown, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Wayne Easter, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Yvonne Jones, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Michael MacDonald, Senator Senate of Canada
Brian Masse, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Phil McColeman, Member of Parliament House of Commons
David McGuinty, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Wilfred Moore, Senator Senate of Canada
Sherry Romanado, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Judy Sgro, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Francesco Sorbara, Member of Parliament House of Commons
David Tilson, Member of Parliament House of Commons
Brad Trost, Member of Parliament House of Commons

Purdue Pharma and other pharmaceutical companies are consistently given a seat at the table with government to lobby their own special interests. Those lobbying in the best interest of the public and want more accountability within the pharmaceutical industry hear nothing but silence on this topic.

It appears big pharma’s role in the opioid epidemic is the elephant in the room no politician wants to talk about.

If you would like to help support our quest for Health Canada to investigate big pharma’s role in the opioid epidemic please sign our petition.

-Amy Graves , President of GPDOTS

 

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