Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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February 28, 2004

Health Canada Challenged Over Pharma Bias

Ottawa - The Canadian Health Authorities' proposed changes to health legislation were challenged at a national symposium organized by the Canadian Health Coalition, reports Helke Ferrie in Vitality Magazine.

Health Canada is proposing to relax the rules which pharmaceutical companies have to follow to prove the safety of their products and is getting ready to permit direct pharmaceutical advertising to consumers.

The Canadian authorities have shown pro-pharma bias on several occasions. Last year in May, member of Parliament Dr. James Lunney charged that the proposed laws for food supplements were inappropriate and too restrictive for that product category. In June Truehope, a group treating mentally ill with nutritional means, sued Health Canada for seizing shipments of its nutritional supplements.

Health Canada even went so far as to send in the Mounties to raid a call center involved with the distribution of nutrient containing products, because - according to the authorities - it is a crime to claim nutrients have positive effects on mental illness.

Some say that hiding behind these actions is a definite push from the pharmaceutical giants, who are seeing some of their mega-profits vanish when people cure themselves with nutrition, rather than becoming lucrative lifelong customers for anti-depressants and other psychiatric drugs.

The participants in the Ottawa symposium agreed on an open letter to the Prime Minister, charging Health Canada is selling out the country's most precious resource - its people - to the pharmaceutical and biochemical industries. More details in the article by Helke Ferrie:

Health Canada Sells Us Out

By Helke Ferrie
VITALITY Magazine March 2004

The blizzard that descended on central Ontario on the night of January 27th caused zero visibility, and so the course of the 401 was guesswork. With very few cars along that 500 km stretch on the road on the road to Ottawa, it was only the noise my tires made on the corrugated strip of pavement
flanking the right shoulder that enabled me to know I was on the road. Thus, it took me over ten hours to make it to Ottawa, twice the usual time.

But my destination was worth risking life and limb for a national symposium on Health Canada's proposed changes to our health protection legislation, hosted by the Canadian Health Coalition. This momentous event, attended by scientists, famous media personalities, and concerned citizens, created such a stir that it culminated in an Open Letter to the Prime Minister” protesting the total sell-out of Canada's most precious natural resource - its people - to the pharmaceutical and biochemical industry. It was signed by hundreds of Canada's most famous people - from Margaret Atwood to David Suzuki, thousands of ordinary people like you and me, and endorsed by 26 countries. Two days later, the roads were clear and the land resplendent in glittering winter garb as I drove home and tried to digest what I had learned. It occurred to me, that instead of “It is as bad as you think, and they are out to get you”, we need a bumper sticker that reads: “They are much worse than you feared, and they have already got you.”


Our government has decided that the Foods and Drugs Act needs renovating and informs us in a 2003 “Report on Plans and Priorities” that the act has “too narrow a focus on safety ... and does not allow for taking into account considerations other than safety and efficacy in managing health risks.” The new act is supposed to “unleash business energies” and “reduce the regulatory burden on business”, especially on the biotechnology and drug industries. Under the title “Health and Safety First”, the government published its plans to give us all “a higher level of protection” through a new act:

1 Instead of the current “duty to care” for Canadians, the act would be focused on risk management, a business concept that includes potential damage or death in its legal cost projections in the same way as a general calculates how many troops would get killed in a campaign. Even if a drug turns out to be carcinogenic (e.g. Paxil), not everybody gets cancer, so
enough money can be made from people who don't complain to make the drug cost-effective. Risk management is literally the opposite of “duty to care”, the latter does not permit conscious inclusion of dead bodies whose litigious costs can be financially managed from the drug's profits. Worst of all, according to German sociologist Ulrich Beck, the current environmental pollution caused by radiation and synthetic drugs with carcinogenic properties will be felt by people not even born yet.

2 The precautionary principle, currently in the act, would disappear; proof of harm would be transferred from the drug company to the patient. Health Canada washes its hands of the problem because all safety issues would be dealt with by the producer; no independent evaluation or human trials would be required. The drug becomes the equivalent of a person and is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Like corporations, which are legal entities with the status of a person but without the liability and responsibility of a person, now the drug would have that status also, and not even the government could do anything about it.

3 Health Canada would no longer be liable for anything. Nice move, given the fact that they are currently facing $ 12 billion worth of liability suits for regulatory negligence, faulty medical devices, tainted blood, as well as civil suits for harassment of their own scientists for not bending to corporate demands for approval shortcuts.

4 Direct to consumer advertising of drugs would also be permitted. According to Stephen Leacock, advertising “is the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it.” The claims made in those ads would be based on nothing verifiable whatsoever. All scientific information concerning its efficacy and safety would be the “proprietary information” of that company. In the US, the sales from the 50 most advertised drugs account for 48% of the $ 20.8 billion increase in retail spending since advertising began big time in 1999 obviously an excellent business move. (From, Jan. 19, 2004)

The CHC's extensive critique (available on their website asks, “Who exactly are Health Canada's clients? The people of Canada? Or the industries that Health Canada is supposed to be regulating?”


So, what about the recommendations made by Justice Krever and the Romanow Report? They are gone with the wind that whistles around Parliament Hill, and thousands of Canadians died not for nothing, oh no! They made some companies very rich before they died. Both Justice Krever and Roy Romanow made it clear that the government's role is to protect the health and safety of its citizens, not to further investment interests that carry risk to health and safety. Health Canada appears to treat us as if human sickness is an infinite resource and as if people, like the environment and natural resources, don't need the application of the concept of sustainability. Consider the fact that the cost of prescription drugs in Canada increased between 1985 and 2000 a whopping 344% and that drugs alone cost the state more than fees for doctors and hospital care combined. And why are chronic disease and antibiotic-resistant illness increasing constantly, even though the population is not?

FDA records show that drug mark-ups frequently are in the 800,000 % range, but unrelated to production costs. That is because “most drug companies have a pipeline problem” (J. Surowiecki, February 16th, The New Yorker). Thus, we read there that Merck devotes three billion dollars annually to research, but has produced zero new drugs for years now. The number of available chemical molecules is limited. That leaves price increases and mergers. The joke in this industry is that “you know you are in the pharmaceutical business when you have worked for five companies in the past two years and you are still sitting at the same old desk.” They buy each other up in frantic haste to milk one more block buster drug. Surowiecki observes, “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.”

As for their effectiveness, consider that the journal Pharmacy Today reported a couple of weeks ago that in their (super-conservative) estimate at least 200,000 American die annually from drug side effects. The prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical School pegged the number at 250,000 six years ago, and the estimate for Canada is at 100,000 annually and all are avoidable. That's 959 people a day or 4,5 million people in 12 years (the Nazis killed 6 million in that period). Investigators agree that the cause is the wholesale sell-out of the regulatory system to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.


This event was graced by stellar medical experts and internationally famous whistleblowers such as Dr. David Healy (antidepressant expert), Dr. i>Nancy Olivieri (blood disease expert), Terrence Young (former MPP whose daughter died from Prepulsid), Professor Barbara Mintzes (researcher in the effect of drug ads) of the University of British Columbia, Professor Joel Lexchin (specializes on the drug approval system) of York University, and Dr. Michelle Brill-Edwards, formerly of Health Canada who knows the system from the inside.

Terrence Young told the heart-breaking story of his daughter's death from Prepulsid, now the subject of an international class action suit involving the families of hundreds of victims. During the inquest the drug company's representative said “We see Health Canada as our best customer.” In a meeting Young learned that Health Canada sees its job as “helping companies get their drugs to market faster.” When he insisted that a report include the warning against “corrupt practices” at Health Canada, he later found those words changed to “management practices.”

Dr. Olivieri told the story of her ongoing world-wide legal battle against a drug that causes liver damage or failure in many patients and irreversible arthritis in many more. Former Health Minister Allan Rock refused to meet with her because the manufacturer's headquarters are in his riding. The drug is of enormous financial importance because children suffering from malaria develop the blood disease it “treats” at exponential rates.

Dr. David Healy described the process by which drug experts like himself are systematically duped by the manufacturer, denied access to the actual data, and presented with reports containing mysterious language: thus a certain percentage of patients on antidepressants develop “emotional lability” which later turned out to mean suicide. Another percentage of patients become “hostile”, which turned out to be plainly homicidal. The “scientific” reports come from authors “TBD”, which means “to be determined”; they are written by anonymous industry writers. Indeed, all presenters discussed the fact that about half of all medical research publications are ghost written by the industry.

Dr. Brill-Edwards related an event that sums it all up perfectly. When Dr. Olivieri tried to engage a Health Canada Deputy Minister in a discussion about drug safety, he said, “Well, tell us what's unsafe about it.” Dr. Brill-Edwards interrupted and said, “No! You provide us the proof that it is safe. That is your duty under the act.”


We need to really understand the systemic ignorance in our health care system: First, our doctors are usually too busy to read the fine print in the CPS; that is the annually published Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties. Distributed free to every doctor's office, it contains what the drug industry must still admit to. Current legislation, does still require a minimum of safety information and it must list potential adverse reactions in small-print whispers. Second, our doctors tend to think, as we do, that Health Canada is checking the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs so we are both duped. Third, hardly any doctor knows that the current approvals process is rigged because the evaluators have no access to the raw data. Everybody from the Health Canada scientist down to the patient popping a carcinogenic antidepressant or Co-enzyme Q10-depleting cholesterol-lowering drug - is kept in the dark and fed BS: We are all mushrooms, observed the representative of the Canadian Labour Congress.

All of us are exposed at some point to this Corporately Regulated Arsenals of Pharmaceuticals (CRAP). Therefore, all of us must act. Here is a list of suggestions:

1. Support the Canadian Health Coalition because they are actually doing this job for us on a shoe-string and full-time. Your and my MPs have so far done nothing - but the Canadian Health Coalition made the CRAP hit the public fan. Supporting them is as important as eating organic and taking your vitamins.

2. (link no longer active)
Open Letter to the Prime Minister

3. Take yourself to the documentary movie The Corporation and become politically enlightened.

Some helpful measures that came to my mind are: first, we need to raise the price of all prescription drugs (except the ones on the World Health Organization's list of 350 necessary ones, which are 5% of what's currently prescribed) by at least 1,000 so people and even insurance companies can't afford them. That would reduce morbidity and increase our longevity to that of Spain and other poor western countries where the spending on drugs is less than one third of ours. (See TIME Feb.2, 2003)

Second, each drug should, like cigarettes, come with the appropriate warnings. Paxil boxes would read: "Taking this SSRI increases your chance of cancer by 750%." Or on a Lipitor box it would say, "Significantly reduces the enzyme your heart function depends on." Or good old aspirin would inform us: "Long-term use increases your chance of pancreatic cancer by 58%" (see proceedings of American Association for Cancer research, October 29, 2003).

Third, we must demand that our current legislation remains in force because its requirements for safety and precaution are excellent. "Safety and duty to care do not go out of date", the CHC report observes. Since it isn't actually enforced, as all the scandals from genetically engineered foods to drug after disastrous drug have shown, we need criminal accountability, as Terrence Young observed. In the spirit of the recently passed bill C-45, which makes corporations responsible for disasters such as the Westray Mine tragedy, and the recent Supreme Court decision making polluting companies responsible for clean-ups, we need court decisions that stop government collusion with industry and condemn this lucrative mass murder. Indeed, the choice for those responsible at Health Canada should be between Kingston and Penetang. Courts must establish if we are dealing with mere crooks or the criminally insane.

Fourth, we need the enunciation of a new human right. All international human rights treaties focus on life, liberty, fair trials, racism, labor laws and the like. The Helsinki Accord also mentions the right to informed consent in medicine. What we urgently need in this time of wholesale corporate criminality is the recognition that it is a human right, not to be lied to for profit, and that being told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, ought to be as fundamental a human right as life itself.

The CHC must have the last word:
"If Health Canada's proposed evisceration of the Foods And Drugs Act is allowed, there will literally be no limit to what the corporations will put in our stomachs and our blood-streams - and ignorance will not only cease to be bliss but will become death."

Annotated Sources and Resources:

Dr. J.S. Cohen, Overdose: The Case Against the Drug Companies Prescription Drugs, Side Effects and Your Health, Tarcher/Putnam, 2001 (A mainstream pharmacologist and university professor reveals the industry skullduggery and FDA collusion.)

H. Ferrie, Hippokrates in the land of Oz: A Survival Guide for Our Golden Age of Medicine, Kos Publishing, in press for March 2004 (contains venting of my spleen for readers who enjoy my articles.)

Dr. D. Healy, Let Them Eat Prozac

J. LeCarre, The Constant Gardener, Viking, 2001 (A grand novel by the greatest of spy story writers based on the Dr. Nancy Olivieri story.)

R.Pelton et al. The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs, Morton, 2000 (This encyclopedia, available in two versions for doctors and for patients written by pharmacists informs about the known damage drugs can cause, all supported by mainstream medical journals. An absolute MUST-read before you fill a prescription or buy an over-the-counter drug. Take it to your doctors and blow their minds.)

Dr. F. Ravikovich, The Plot Against Asthma and Allergy Patients, Kos, 2003 (Everything you never thought possible about burying breath-giving cures for corporate benefit.)

J. Robinson, Prescription Games: Money Ego and Power inside the Global Pharmaceutical Industry, McLelland & Stewart, 2001 (now only available through (The best one-stop overview of the nature of Big Pharma.)

J. Thompson et al. eds., The Olivieri Report, CAUT Series, Lorimer, 2001 (The full report by the Canadian Association of University Teachers on how Apotex, the University of Toronto, Sick Children's Hospital and Health Canada joined forces to protect a deadly drug from revenue losses.)

A comprehensive report on the financial cost of prescription drug harm is available in Death by Medicine by Gary Null, Dr. C. Dean et al, December 2003:

Special thanks to Dr. Carolyn Dean, Michael Downey, and Croft Woodruff for technical information and to Dr. Sherry Rogers for the acronym CRAP which for her means Cigarettes, Coffee, Refined sugars, Alcohol, Pop and Processed foods.

See also:


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Saturday February 28 2004
updated on Saturday December 4 2010

URL of this article:


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Readers' Comments

I admire your article enormously and it is so good to find that people in so many countries are now taking a stand. This is the first etter I've had from you so I don't know if you have told everyone about the Alliance for Natural Health in England. They have recently achieved a huge success by going to court in London to get permission to take their case against the Food Supplements Directive of the European Union to the EU Court. They won the day by working long hours into the night. The judge in his summing up said that speed is of the essence to get the subject to court with great speed.
When (not if) we win in the European court this will have a huge knock-on effect in all other countries and on the Codex Alimentarius which is waiting in the wings.
If we all work together we are sure to win. Our job now is to see that we win sooner rather than later.
All the very best and good luck in all your endeavours.
The world needs people like you.
The website for the Alliance It is kept up to date and is state of the art in its grasp of the whole world situation.
Maggie (Mahomed)

Posted by: Maggie Mahomed on February 28, 2004 11:30 PM


The Arlene Berry Death Coverup

Posted by: Malcolm Everett on December 12, 2004 08:57 PM


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