Prescription drugs cause major uproar in Canada

Health Canada is not doing enough to monitor prescription drugs for dangerous side-effects that may be killing thousands of people each year, says the House of Commons health committee.

In a report tabled Thursday, the all-party committee cites testimony by expert witnesses suggesting adverse reactions are causing 10,000 deaths in Canada annually. The committee calls for a system in which doctors and drug manufacturers would be required to forward information on adverse reactions within 48 hours of their occurrence.

"The committee agrees that the current system of voluntary reporting by health professionals and consumers . . . is unsatisfactory," says the report.

In 2002, Health Canada received 8,500 reports of adverse drug reactions in Canada, and 106,000 foreign reports, but had only 13 people to analyse the information.

Many reactions were not reported at all because the system is voluntary, it said, inform

The report says testing is currently left to drug companies and is cloaked in secrecy.

The report criticizes Health Canada for not enforcing its own prohibition on direct-to-consumer drug advertising.

"Health Canada has to get itself back in the driver's seat," said Bonnie Brown, chairperson of the committee.

"Health Canada has the constitutional power to regulate the approval of new drugs . . . in some ways the pharmaceutical industry has been in the driver's sea," report

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