Page 6: Health Canada – 2014–2015 – Supplementary Information Tables – Departmental Performance Report - Response to Parliamentary Committees and External Audits

Response to Parliamentary Committees and External Audits

Response to parliamentary committees

"Government's Role in Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse" - Report by the Standing Committee on Health was released on April 10, 2014.  The Government Response was tabled on June 16, 2014.

On April 10, 2014, the Standing Committee on Health tabled its second report in the House of Commons entitled Government's Role in Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse. The Committee made 20 recommendations which addressed issues along six main themes including: regulation of the pharmaceutical supply chain; support for a Pan-Canadian strategy to address prescription drug abuse; best practices for prevention and raising awareness; monitoring and surveillance; prevention and treatment of prescription drug abuse in First Nations and Inuit communities; and, combatting the stigma of addiction.

The Government Response is supportive of the Committee's recommendations, and demonstrates the Government's commitment to working in collaboration with partners as it expands the National Anti-Drug Strategy to include prescription drug abuse.

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"Prescription Pharmaceuticals in Canada:  Off-label Use" - Report by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology was released on January 30, 2014.  The Government Response was tabled on July 3, 2014.

In the third phase of its four-part study on pharmaceutical drugs in Canada, the Committee studied the off-label use of drugs, which is considered a "practice of medicine" and falls mainly outside of the federal mandate. Through its 18 recommendations, the Committee raised issues regarding the extent of off-label prescribing practices and drug use in Canada and the concerns this poses to vulnerable sub-populations such as children, pregnant/nursing women and the elderly. Issues related to access to medicines in general and drugs used in the treatment of rare diseases, the safety and effectiveness of data, and the promotion and awareness activities (including the question of informed consent) in off-label drug uses were also raised.

The Government Response highlighted some of Health Canada's recent efforts aimed at improving what is already recognized as one of the best drug safety regulatory systems in the world. The Government of Canada agreed that new legislative and regulatory post-market authorities are needed, and referred to some measures undertaken to modernize the Food and Drugs Act and achieve better patient protection. The Government Response also highlighted government efforts to improve the monitoring, data collecting and information-sharing practices related to off-label use. It also emphasized ongoing government support for research studies on the safety and effectiveness of off-label use (including those focusing on vulnerable populations) and in enhancing openness and transparency measures by implementing practices such as the publicly available electronic posting of both positive (approved) and negative (rejected) Summary Basis of Decision documents for drugs and medical devices reviewed by Health Canada for possible sale in Canada.

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"Marijuana's Health Risks and Harms" - Report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health was released on October 21, 2014.  The Government Response was tabled on February 18, 2015.

On October 21, 2014, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health tabled its report on the health risks and harms associated with the use of marijuana.

The Committee recommended four areas where the Government of Canada could continue to work toward reducing health risks and harms associated with marijuana use by: 1) developing a public awareness campaign; 2) increasing support and awareness for health professional organizations; 3) preventing drug-impaired driving; and 4) funding research. While the Report provided a brief overview of Canada's medical marijuana regime and highlighted several suggestions raised by the witnesses in this respect, the Report's overall focus and recommendations related to marijuana use for non-medical purposes.

The Government Response was supportive of the Committee's recommendations, and demonstrated the Government's commitment to raising awareness, supporting research, and working with key partners to address the health risks and harms associated with marijuana use.  Opportunities to demonstrate the Government's current and future intent to reduce these risks and harms were highlighted. The response also outlined the Preventing Drug Abuse public awareness campaign launched on October 20, 2014, the Minister's Roundtable on the Health Risks of Marijuana for Youth held on April 30, 2014, research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and through the National Anti-Drug Strategy (including work carried out by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse), as well as work underway on the RCMP's Impaired Driving Strategy, among other initiatives.

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"Prescription Pharmaceuticals in Canada - Unintended Consequences" - Report by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology was released on October 21, 2014.  The Government Response was tabled on March 26, 2015.

On October 21, 2014, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) tabled its report on unintended consequences in the use of prescription pharmaceuticals.

The report was the fourth in a four-part study on prescription pharmaceuticals in Canada, undertaken by SOCI in 2011, and made 30 recommendations, covering eight different themes overarching to the Health Portfolio. While the overall tone of the report was neutral, the Senate Committee suggested that the Minister of Health and Health Canada take "assertive action to protect the health of Canadians with respect to prescription drug abuse and addiction, counterfeit and substandard drugs and drug shortages." The Senate Committee also suggested that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC ) "increase its efforts in the area of antibiotic resistance".

In the Government Response, the Government was supportive of the principle of the Committee's recommendations, as well as with its overall intent to further protect the health and safety of Canadians by reducing the risk of unintended consequences in the use of prescription drugs.

The response highlighted the significant progress made since the conclusion of the Committee's hearings in April 2014, including: the publication of a Notice to Interested Parties in the Canada Gazette on a regulatory proposal to require that prescription drugs at high risk for abuse have tamper-resistant qualities; the Royal Assent of Vanessa's Law; the posting on Health Canada's website of annual reports that summarize the results of its Good Manufacturing Practices inspections; and the launch by PHAC of the Antimicrobial Resistance and Use in Canada: a Federal Framework for Action.

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Response to the Auditor General (including to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development)

2014 Fall Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. Chapter 5-Departmental Progress in Implementing Sustainable Development Strategies

This audit forms part of the Commissioner's annual monitoring of sustainable development strategy commitments. The audit focused on the government's 2010 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy commitment to strengthen consideration of the environment in its decision-making by more stringently applying strategic environmental assessment. The scope included Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Health Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada, the Privy Council Office and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Health Canada developed action plans in response to two recommendations (5.25 and 5.44) that also applied to other federal organizations.

More information on List of recommendations

Response to external audits conducted by the Public Service Commission of Canada or the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

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