Thursday, October 6, 2016

Public Policy, Canadian Health Care, The Pharmaceutical Lobbyists

Public Policy, Canadian Health Care, The Pharmaceutical Lobbyists

International drug companies and their lobbyists play an influential role in shaping Canada’s Health Care Policy.  Their reach influences politicians, government bureaucrats, medical schools, hospitals, doctors and professional health associations.

Through the sponsoring of events and through direct campaign contributions they are able to control the dialogue and conversation to see that their policies and their interest are met.

Unlike elected representatives who in theory are suppose to represent the Canadian public, international pharmaceutical companies only need to be loyal to their shareholders – owners of the company who have a financial invested interest.  The Lobbyists employed by the major drug companies only need to be loyal to their major stakeholder – their employer.

Because of drug patent laws – which were obtained through lobbying – the drug industry enjoys hefty profits. A certain percentage of these profits are earmarked by management to influence decision makers in the health field and beyond – cabinet ministers, government bureaucrats, professional health association presidents and political campaign managers - to name only a few. 

For example, in the last week of September, 2016 a major Heath Care summit took place in Ottawa at the Chateau Laurier Hotel. The Summit titled “A New Health Care Accord for All Canadians” was a partnership between the think tank Canada 2020 and the Canadian Medial Association (CMA).

The Summit was showcased as a public policy forum in which medical professionals, the Federal Government of Canada and its Provincial counterparts could discuss different policy issues relating to a new health accord that is to be negotiated in the next few months between the Federal Government and the Provinces. The Summit was also convened to discuss public policy as it pertains to a new national pharmacare program.

This Summit featured Dr. Gaetan Barrette the Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services and Dr. Jane Philpott Canada's Minister of Health - two elected officials. However, the Health Summit also relied on the input of “the who’s who” of the pharmaceutical lobby. This list included: the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA ) the largest US pharmaceutical lobby group in America;  The Canadian pharmaceutical industry lobby group Innovative Medicines Canada (formerly Rx&D); A Merck Canada executive; and a representative from Amgen.

The pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson along with Amgen and PhRMA were sponsors of the event. 

To the casual observer - for a major health summit that wished to call its self independent there sure seemed to  be a lot of players at the table who may have attended for self serving purposes!

Another example of the drug industries reach into the public forum can be seen in the Province of British Columbia.

Back in 2012 the Deputy Health Minister Graham Whitemarsh convened a meeting on November 21 at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver in which his own Health Department memo read “this session would provide an opportunity to learn about ongoing priorities within the Ministry of Health.”

However when one looked at the list of attendees to this “session” about three quarters of the invitees were representatives of drug companies.  This caught the eye of University of Victoria health researcher Alan Cassels who said "It's [session] got every pharmaceutical company under the sun there"

The reach of pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists do not stop at summits, forums or conferences; their reach extends directly into the offices of public health officials, elected government officials, and equally alarming into the campaign coffers of political parties – the epic center where money is exchanged in anticipation of future political favors.
In May of 2013 in the Province of British Columbia an investigative report from the Vancouver Sun found that “drug companies and pharmacies donated nearly $800,000 to the BC Liberals over the past 8 years - almost 14 times more than was given to the NDP.

The investigative report analyzed political donations between the years 2005 and 2012 and found that “drug companies, pharmaceutical organization and pharmacies donated $582,549 to the Liberals and $41,850 to the NDP.”

According to the report drug giant Johnson & Johnson lead the list with $49,121 dollars in Liberal contributions and 0 for the NDP. Pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer was second giving $39,427 to the Liberals and $645.00 to the NDP.

The full list appears as follows.

Johnson & Johnson $49,121 to the Liberals, $0 to the NDP
Pfizer Canada $39,427 to the Liberals, $645 to the NDP
GlaxoSmithKline $32,412 to the Liberals, $0 to the NDP
Canada's Research Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) $26,000 to the Liberals, $450 to the NDP 
Merck Canada $24,716 to the Liberals, $0 to the NDP
Amgen Canada Inc $23,275 to the Liberals, $0 to the NDP

What influences these multinational drug companies may or may not have over past provincial governments has been scrutinized by many.

However, one should note that the lack of drug industry contributions to the NDP was in all probability related to their support of renew funding for the “Therapeutic Initiative’ a well regarded drug review testing agency shelved by the Liberals.  

At the time, NDP leader Adrian Dixon said the independent agency was necessary to test drug safety free of any influence from deep pocketed pharmaceutical companies. 

It should be noted that the Liberals cut the program.

Staying with B.C. politics we note that the reach of a lobbyist can also extend right into the “war room” of a political campaign. Back in September 13, 2013 the Georgia Straight reported that Lobbyist Marcella Munro was working for Mike Farnsworth, the former B.C. NDP Health Critic and a close runner up to opposition leader Adrian Dix in the 2011 NDP leadership race.

Munro was with the Earnacliffe Strategy Group and was a registered lobbyist for Rx&D; the main lobby group in Canada for pharmaceutical companies. She was also a registered lobbyist for GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly.

There seems to be little question that multi national drug manufacturers lobby hard to get what they want. We provided four examples showing how their reach influences all facets of public life. 

In the Canadian context their reach extends beyond sponsoring major health conferences. It extends into the very heart of our democratic society - into the electoral process itself - where money is exchanged for future political favors. And where the resulting process sees private interest outweigh the public good. 

Michael Butler “Why Is the US Big Pharma lobby sponsoring a conference on the future of Canadian Health Care? Sept 13 2016
Drug companies dominate BC health ministry stakeholder's list, Andrew Macleod, October 22, 2012
Vancouver Sun, Lori Culbert, BC Liberals a favorite of big Pharma, May 9 2013
Seniors at Risk "Pharmaceutical lobbyist backed former NDP Health Critic... What?? , Sept 2013.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Helping Those Suffering with Diabetes: Especially the First Nations Community.

Helping Those Suffering with Diabetes: 
Especially the First Nations Community.

A recent article appeared in written by Life Choice founder and owner Eldon Dahl, Doctorate of Natural Medicine title " Helping Those Suffering with Diabetes--Especially the First Nations Community." 

The article examined the rate of diabetes among first Nations communities in Canada and concluded that  "First Nations people are more likely to develop diabetes in their lifetime. In the general population of youth, the estimated diabetes risk is 5 out of 10. In First Nations communities, the estimated risk is 8 out of 10 youths."

Dahl goes on to explain how "generally speaking, there are 3 main causes for diabetes: genetics, behavior (diet/exercise), and environment" and how in "the case of the Native  population, the environmental factor may play a more crucial role than most people realize". 

Dahl writes "If First Nations people live in an area where fresh food is unattainable or expensive, it can be more difficult to maintain the healthy lifestyle needed to stave off diabetes." 

In 2011 A Government of Canada report supported Dahl's claim by stating back in 2011...

"Type 2 diabetes is a health concern among Canada's First Nations and Inuit. First Nations on reserve have a rate of diabetes three to five times higher than that of other Canadians. Rates of diabetes among the Inuit are expected to rise significantly in the future given that risk factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, and unhealthy eating patterns are high."

And on April 7, of this year Global News presented a piece titled "Rates of Diabetes Staggering In First Nations Communities" which also supports Dahl's diabetes claims....

Quoting a member of a First Nations Community....

"First Nations people develop diabetes sooner than other people in the population... So it is not your 85 year old grandmother, its your 35 year old neighbor and that is a significant issue because that means people are developing the complications of diabetes sooner than they otherwise would. "

Watch Video

Sources, Eldon Dahl, Helping Those Suffering with Diabetes--Especially the First Nations Community, September 23, 2016

Government of Canada Report, Health Canada, Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative, 2011 

Global News, April 7 2016, Rates of Diabetes Staggering In First Nations Communities