Who Stands on Guard for Thee? On Resources for Patient Empowerment, A Proposed New Ministry of Wellness, and Health Canada’s Latest AnticsHelke Ferrie May 1, 2013
“A 2012 study estimated that 40,000 Canadian patients die every year as a result of medical error. That is the equivalent of 80 jumbo jets crashing every year – one every five days or so.” (Sir Liam Donaldson, World Health Organization Envoy for Patient Safety)
Canada’s Food and Drug Act 1985 (Section 2, subsections 3 (1) and (2)) ensures that Canadians seek “proper” medical treatment… which means exclusive treatment by a medical doctor prescribing pharmaceutical drugs. (From Statement of Claim filed in federal court September 21, 2012, by natural health products manufacturers vs relevant Canadian Government authorities.)
Most of what I report in Vitality focuses on the harm that fraud-based profit-driven medicine causes, and the failure of regulatory authorities to acknowledge and prevent it. But things are changing. Mainstream medicine increasingly refuses to be co-opted for profit by fraud, as reported in my recent articles. Equally important is the well-informed refusal to be sacrificed to fraud and profit arising from patients and natural health product manufacturers. This is a thoroughly interactive movement, and readers are encouraged to get involved.
On April 13, the law firm Oakley & Oakley organized a one-day patients’ voice symposium which included doctors who had experienced the medical system’s abuse. Consider that 89% of deaths are due to chronic diseases – most of which are caused by toxic food, air, water, medical errors, and overdiagnosis. Big Pharma profits nicely as 49% of Canadians now rely on long-term medication.
Medical over-specialization is one main systemic flaw because nobody is trained to think of the whole person, thereby exponentially increasing tests, treatments, and drugs. Toronto Star award-winning investigative reporter, Robert Cribb, famous for his “Medical Secrets” and other investigative projects, reported on how the media is helping to bring out the truth. In his report, lawyers revealed that the liability insurance payouts as a result of hospital medical errors causing death are typically much lower than insurance payouts for medical errors causing injury. (Eg. If a child dies as a result of being given the wrong drug by a hospital, the insurance payout will likely be about $20,000. But if the child is injured by, say, a botched surgery, the insurance payout can go as high as $2 million.)
Susan McIver and Robin Wyndham launched their new book After the Error this year. McIver made waves several years ago with Medical Nightmares. Her new book shows that doctors, nurses, and hospitals do their best to avoid responsibility for drug dispensing errors, surgical disasters, and the annual toll of some 250,000 hospital-acquired infections which are often fatal. The book is useful because it alerts us to the system’s dangers and empowers the reader to give up that infantile trust – our default reaction when faced with sickness and somebody in a white coat.
Dr. K.G. Shojania of U of T, the editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal’s project BMJ Quality & Safety, provided an overview of the constantly growing patients’ safety movement that began 13 years ago. His data showed how medical errors have overtaken car accidents, cancer, and AIDS in regards to number of deaths caused, and that almost half are preventable.
An excellent organization arose late last year whose website has the provocative acronym CPSO.co (Coalition for Physician and Surgeon Oversight); it demands accountability from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the medical regulatory body that often protects incompetent doctors and persecutes those with good patient outcomes. Complaint cases pertaining to psychiatry have shown how the prescription practices involving, for example, more than 30 simultaneous psychiatric drugs and electro shock treatments, all causing harm, were defended by the College despite the warnings in manufacturers’ drug information. CPSO.co offers great resources for patients in danger of winding up in Psychiatry Hell. It cross-links with the international site www.RxISK.org founded by psychiatrist David Healy. Visiting these for correct information is vital before filling any psych drug prescription.
We Need a Ministry of Wellness
Lawyer Shawn Buckley of the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA) has nearly 100,000 signatures petitioning for a federal Ministry of Wellness – separate from secretive drug-promoting Health Canada. Buckley reported as follows:
“When government imposes strict regulations restricting consumer choice and raising the price of remaining products, the justification is almost always safety. Canada’s natural health products regulations supposedly protect us from adulteration, fraudulent claims, and unsafe products. I asked Health Canada by Access to Information Act request to provide evidence of death caused by a natural health product since Confederation (1867). I was given no evidence. So, where is the safety risk? Some children die every year from allergies to peanut butter. Compared to every natural health product on the market, peanut butter is significantly more dangerous, but not enough to justify a separate Health Canada Peanut Butter Directorate to save the odd life. Our current NHP Directorate actually may cost lives.
“I received a call from a lady diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988. She had surgery and radiation treatment, but the cancer returned in 1993. There was a several months delay before surgery, and rather than doing nothing, she consulted a naturopathic doctor and began taking specific natural health products. When the lumps were removed, they came back as benign, puzzling the surgeon as the original biopsies had shown malignancy. Her cancer did not return until 2008 when she postponed surgery for a year and took supplements again. During that year the tumours shrunk.
“The natural health product she relied on is no longer available in Canada. The U.S. manufacturer no longer has Health Canada’s approval. She explained that in those 24 years since her cancer diagnosis she attended many funerals of friends and family members who died from cancer, but she had done better than anyone else and attributes this to the supplement that she can no longer get. I wish this was an isolated case, but I receive similar stories from across Canada. Many people with serious health conditions have tried the synthetic drugs either without success, or the side-effects proved intolerable, but natural products worked for them. Health Canada is putting them at risk of death or tremendous suffering.
“In my law practice I advise companies targeted by Health Canada. Typically Health Canada demands that a natural health product no longer be sold because ‘a consumer’ has complained, but that ‘consumer’ is never identified. The first thing I do is determine if removing that product will cause harm. You cannot put a product out on the market, have people come to rely on it for serious health conditions, and then remove it. If anyone suffers or dies, you can be convicted of criminal negligence causing death, punished by life imprisonment.
“Health Canada gets away with this by never asking how many people are taking the product and what benefits people are reporting. They simply stop sales because an unidentified person complained alleging it is “unapproved” – yet, roughly half of all products currently available are not approved. Health outcomes are simply not considered as determinative. Often Canadians take them on recommendation from a healthcare practitioner and so, in effect, an anonymous complaint over-rides the informed advice of medical practitioners. This is reckless and dangerous.
“Letters from Health Canada, in response to complaints about losing access to natural products, brag about the number of natural products forced off the market, claiming potentially serious health risks – without providing supporting evidence. Let’s assume that for a one-year period Health Canada would remove every product that caused a death from both synthetic and natural health products. After a year, it is certain that not a single natural health product would have been removed, but would there be any synthetic drugs left? Even over-the-counter pain killers and cold medications would be recalled for causing deaths.
“So, who benefits from the NHP Regulations? My speculation is that this is an exercise in what economists call ‘rent seeking,’ referring to large industry players encouraging bureaucracies to over-regulate that industry, usually in the name of safety. The bureaucracy benefits because it grows to implement new regulations. The cost of doing business increases. The large players benefit as smaller players are driven out of business. I am haunted by a quote in a study on industry perceptions of the NHP Regulations in BMC Health Serv Res. 2006; 6:63 by a large player in the natural health product industry: ‘the faster the weaker players get out of the business, the better, from a… predatory side… only 3 or 4 big players… survive. We intend on being one of them. So I’m saying if you’re going to cause that, then do it faster. Quit slow bleeding us.’
“The NHP Regulations definitely will benefit large companies – pharmaceutical and natural health product companies – when their Regulations become fully effective. Health Canada benefits by getting more funding to expand their bureaucratic empire. The public pays higher prices and has less selection, and some of us die when products we rely on are taken away. Others suffer when no longer allowed to manage serious health conditions.”
In April, the Senate told Health Canada to consider mandatory reporting of adverse drug reactions. Currently, the process by which regulators handle adverse drug reports is secret and reporting by doctors and patients entirely voluntary. Those adverse events are from drugs already on the market which were released for sale despite known toxicity and harm reported in pre-marketing trials. The Senate investigation, chaired by Senator Kelvin Ogilvie, recommended that “Health Canada actually allocate enough resources so that it can effectively analyse and respond to adverse drug reports,” and that such reporting ought to be “mandatory,” even if it “strikes terror in the minds of average medical practitioners.”
Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Anna Reid pointed out that all those voluntary reports about adverse drug reactions made by conscientious doctors “really just go into this black hole.” From that black hole, Health Canada spokesperson Dr. Supriya Sharma replied that she is awaiting the results from current monitoring of 700 hospitals “to develop a new standard on reporting negative side effects. We are looking at more sophisticated ways to mine that data and look at those signals… which includes co-operation from international partners.” My translation: we will look at the data on this medical carnage, see how other countries deal with their body count from the same drugs and treatments, and then we’ll figure out how best to water down the evidence.
Meanwhile, a jumbo jet’s equivalent of lives is lost every few days, while this mind-numbing nonsense continues to be spun in high places. Actually, the truth about toxic drugs, sickness-seeking screening, and useless treatments is known and published. For example, every year the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties is updated on all drugs marketed in Canada. The terrifying facts about each drug are given in fine detail: toxicity, which people cannot take them and why, what harm can be expected, what drugs not to mix, etc. The mainstream medical journals report on warnings in thousands of articles. I specialize in researching this information, but can barely keep up with the stream of articles and books by authorities showing how many people are killed and harmed by drugs based on fraud, subterfuge, bribes, and sold via untruthful propaganda with which regulatory authorities cooperate.
Mandatory reporting would require doctors to read this information before prescribing a drug, and reread it again after patients report side effects. If this actually happened, medicine as we know it would grind to a halt and doctors’ waiting rooms would be standing-room-only events with appointment backlogs beyond our worst nightmares.
However, the problem is easy to understand and quite absurd: why are drugs allowed to go to market that have the known potential to kill or harm, and are justified by (nicely doctored) statistical averages? Answer: Because they are profitable. Why are natural health products, that even cancer patients have relied on for decades, taken off the market even if that means killing people? Because they function as powerful competition which synthetic drugs could never hope to beat.
In another couple of centuries people will look back and ask just what possessed us when we allowed drugs and treatments to be prescribed for patients in spite of the full knowledge of their potential to kill or harm. History is full of such absurdities which boil down to some profiting to the detriment of many. The take-home message is: rely on your own judgment, join and support those groups that are doing so already to find and spread correct information, and take comfort in the fact that the truth is knowable.
- H. Ferrie, Creative Outrage, Kos 2013 (for patient resources and to find good medical care; 5 copies or more 50% discount)
- S. McIver & R. Wyndham, After the Error – Speaking Out About Patient Safety To Save Lives, ECW Press, 2013
- S. Glouberman MD, My Operation A Health Insider Becomes a Patient, Health & Everything Publications, 2010
- A. Cassels, Seeking Sickness, Greystone, 2012, to learn how and why to avoid harmful standard medical screening
- www.patientsassociation.ca download the presentations from Patient Symposium, April 13, 2013
- www.RxISK.org to report psychiatric drug side effects and get help info@RxISK.org
- www.NHPPA.org join and support a federal Ministry of Wellness