Health Canada, the "independent" body of regulators who monitor the safety of drugs, have recently come under fire for failing to monitor the safety of drugs dished out to millions of Canadians every year.
I've highlighted Health Canada many times on this blog. They, just like other global medicine regulators, are about as useful as a waterproof teabag when it comes to safeguarding the public.
Yesterday The Star ran with the headline, 'Health Canada brushes off reports of serious side effects'. The article, written by David Bruser and Jesse McLean, heavily featured the story of Brennan McCartney, the 18 year old who killed himself just 4 days after being prescribed the powerful SSRi Lexapro [known as Cipralex in Canada] - Back story here.
Like many before her, Brennan's mother, Nancy, was shocked to find that the medication given to her son could actually induce suicide. This was learned after the event because the warnings about this adverse reaction are seen as a minor risk by Health Canada.
Lexapro is marketed in Europe by Lundbeck, the same company that gave us Celexa [known as Cipramil in the UK. Celexa is also an SSRi with the same chemical make-up of Lexapro. In fact the only reason, that I can see, that Lexapro came to market was for Lundbeck to keep their stranglehold on the SSRi market. Celexa is also known to induce suicide as well as homicidal acts and thoughts [See The Shane Clancy Case: Celexa Induced Homicide/Suicide]
It's fair to lambaste and criticize Health Canada over the SSRi issue as they have failed and continue to fail the Canadian public.
In 2010 I covered the story of Sara Carlin, the 18 year old Canadian teen, who killed herself after being prescribed Paxil [known as Seroxat in the UK]
Sara's inquest was high profile and received a lot of media attention. Sadly, the media's coverage of the inquest was pretty much one-sided - I just offered a much needed balance. [Sara Carlin - Death by Paxil Inquest [PDF]
The line-up of lawyers and "experts" at Sara's inquest blamed everything but Paxil.
The conclusion of the inquest saw the Coroner list 16 recommendations so teenagers couldn't be put at risk with these types of drugs again. One of the recommendations was:
D. Health CanadaIssuing Regulatory Warnings10. In order to maximize the effect of Health Advisories detailing drug-related adverse events, Health Canada should consider that the Health Advisories;- be succinct- clearly set out the warning- should clearly set out the body of evidence giving rise to the warning- should be specific- should be profiled in a way to attract physician's attentionConsideration should be given to utilizing knowledge translation experts to assist in providing this information to physicians.
Recommendations are all fine and dandy but they are just that. The above recommendation, read out at the end of Sara's inquest two years ago, has not been put in place. In fact, none of the 16 recommendations have been put in place.
Recommendations have been made before.
Vanessa Young was just 15 when she was prescribed Prepulsid to treat a mild form of bulimia. In March 2000 Vanessa collapsed, a day later she died. Soon after her death her father, Terence, discovered that Prepulsid had a warning saying that it shouldn't be taken by anyone with a condition of vomiting. This warning never appeared on the Canadian version of the tablet, yet just a few miles south of Canada, the US had warned consumers. Health Canada once again had failed. Terence, an Oakville MP, highlighted the failings in his book, Death by Prescription.
One has to look at why so many young men and women are prescribed psychiatric medication. Drugs such as Lexapro and Paxil are prescribed for patients with a mental illness. In today's terms a mental illness is, for all intents and purposes, defined as someone suffering a relationship split, worrying about school exams or, in many instances, they are prescribed to patients who are victims of bullying. These are not mental illnesses yet everyday the doctor reaches for his prescription pad in the hope that a mind altering drug will take away the heartache of a relationship split or the jitters experienced when facing a school exam or will, miraculously, help victims of bullying.
There is something seriously wrong with humanity if it believes natural feelings can be fixed by a small tablet.
None of the aforementioned deserved to die. If Health Canada had their best interests at heart then they wouldn't have died. Truth is, they each died as a result of a huge failure to regulate.
Health Canada, like the FDA and MHRA, are a body of men and women who answer to nobody but themselves. Any independent inquiry into the way they regulate will be undertaken, perversely, by themselves. All three regulators have a history of connections with the pharmaceutical industry, all are paid by the pharmaceutical industry as part of the licensing of their drugs.
I have not come across one spokesperson for any global regulatory body who has ever apologized for their failure to warn patients of the risks of prescription medicine. To apologize one has to be sorry. It's plainly obvious, to me at least, that regulatory bodies have forgotten why they were ever established. They are a group of stubborn individuals who believe that they are 'getting it right' when there's an overwhelming amount of evidence that shows that they are failing on a humongous scale. It's delusion of the highest order fed by the pharmaceutical dollar and the myth that psychiatry is an evidence based science. It's not, it's based on speculation and assumption. Pharmaceutical companies just tapped into it at the right time and, just like the pills they manufacture and promote, they did the same with top psychiatrists. They fed their egos by labeling them 'experts'. The field of psychiatry, in the main, fell for it - hook, line and sinker.
Here's a bunch of mentally ill people of varying ages that died, so believe pharma and regulators, as a result of a terrible illness. When watching please ignore the medication that they were taking that led to their suicide and/or unnatural deaths - you will then have an idea of how regulators work. It's called burying your head in the sand.