The Canadian government says it will work to protect drug supplies in Canada after the Trump administration announced Wednesday that it would seek to allow states to import prescription medication from north of the border.
Opening up imports for states is something U.S. President Donald Trump has long boasted as a means of lowering U.S. drug prices.
In a statement to Global News, Health Canada spokesperson Alexander Cohen said: “Our government will protect our supply of and access to medication that Canadians rely on.”
The statement added that the Canadian government will “continue to be in communication with the White House” and the message remains “firm.”
“We share the goal of ensuring people can get and afford the medication they need – but these measures will not have any significant impact on prices or access for Americans. We remain focused on ensuring Canadians have access to the medication they need.”
The pathways for importation were first announced by the U.S. government in July. Health officials in Washington on Wednesday unveiled a proposed regulation that would allow states to import many brand name drugs from Canada, with federal oversight. A second draft plan would let pharmaceutical companies seek approval to import their own drugs, from any country.
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Medicines cost less in Canada, and other advanced countries, because the governments take an active role in setting prices. Higher costs are often reported as the reason why some U.S. residents to travel to Canada to buy medication. The FDA permits U.S. residents to bring medication for personal use across the border but not more than a three-month supply.
Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, called the importation move “a historic step forward in efforts to bring down drug prices and out-of-pocket costs.”
However, there have been concerns in Canada that such a move could harm drug supplies.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association has been among those raising alarms and calling on the government to take action.
“With an average of five new drug shortages reported each day in Canada, we are not in a position to supply a country 10 times our size and these proposals could restrict the availability of medications for our patients,” a statement from the organization provided to Global News read.
The organization pushed the Canadian government to “clearly express its opposition” to U.S. drug importations and create an action plan.
The pharmacists’ association isn’t alone in its concern. Earlier this year, 15 groups representing patients, health professionals, hospitals, and pharmacists warned the federal government of the potential for increasing drug shortages in a letter.
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“The Canadian medicine supply is not sufficient to support both Canadian and U.S. consumers,” the letter read. “The supply simply does not, and will not, exist within Canada to meet such demands.”
On the Drug Shortages Canada database, there are currently 9,012 shortage reports. Twenty-three per cent of those shortages, or 2,048, are current issues. One per cent of the reports, a total of 53, are anticipated shortages. The remainder have either been avoided or resolved.
— With files from Reuters, The Associated Press
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
How well has Canada fought the COVID-19 pandemic? 3 experts weigh in – Global News
As new cases of COVID-19 surge across Canada, the federal government and the provinces have been imposing stricter measures to try to limit the illness’s spread.
The Canadian Press interviewed three leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology, asking their thoughts on Canada’s handling of the pandemic, the new restrictions on activities — and what else can be done. Here’s what they had to say.
John Brownstein, Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital
Having a national testing strategy in Canada that uses rapid tests people could do at home would limit the spread of the virus, Brownstein says.
“That would enable us to get insight on infection and actually have people isolate,” he says.
No such tests have been approved in Canada yet.
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“We’ve been saying this all along, so it’s not just a purely Canadian issue, but having a strategy that implements that kind of information would go a long way to drive infections down in communities while we wait for the vaccine.”
Brownstein says curfews have unintended consequences because they force people to get together over a shorter period of time during the day.
“We haven’t seen a lot of evidence that curfews have driven down infection.”
He says a mix of testing and quarantine is the best way to make sure international travellers don’t cause outbreaks when they return from the pandemic hot spots.
Testing alone is not enough, he says, because tests can come back negative during the novel coronavirus’s incubation period; people should be careful about relying on test results that could give a false sense of security.
Brownstein says pandemic fatigue is real and the governments’ support for people suffering in the crisis should continue.
He says promoting low-risk activities, including walking and exercising outdoors, is also important.
“Whatever we can do to allow for people to spend more time outside, probably the better.”
David Juncker, professor of medicine and chair of the department of biomedical engineering at McGill University
Canada needs a national strategy for how to use rapid tests for the virus that causes COVID-19, says Juncker.
Juncker is an adviser for Rapid Test and Trace, an organization advocating for a mass rapid-testing system across Canada.
“Initially the Canadian government (spoke) against (rapid tests) and then they pivoted sometime in October or September,” he says. The federal government then bought thousands of rapid tests and sent them to the provinces, where they’ve mostly sat unused.
“Every province is trying to come up with their own way of trying them — running their own individual pilots. There’s a lack of exchange of information and lack of guidelines in terms of how to best deploy them,” he says.
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Juncker says the testing regime based on swabs collected in central testing sites was working in the summer but it collapsed in the fall.
He says medical professionals prefer those tests because they are more accurate and can detect low levels of the virus, which is important for diagnoses, but rapid tests can be useful for public health through sheer volume, if they’re used properly.
A federal advisory panel’s report released Friday, laying out the best uses for different kinds of tests, is a step in the right direction, he says.
“I’m happy to see we’re slowly shifting from the point of view of ‘Should we use rapid tests?’ to a point of view (of) ‘How can we best use them?”’
More recent research suggests that rapid tests are more accurate than was previously thought, he says.
“We still don’t have enough capacity to test everyone so we’d have to use them in a strategic way.”
Juncker says the lockdowns in Ontario and Quebec should have happened earlier in the fall, when cases started to rise.
He says the late lockdowns in Canada won’t be as effective as those in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, where early lockdowns effectively stopped the disease from spreading.
“Countries that were most aggressive early on, are the ones that have, I think, the best outcome.”
He says countries where health decisions are fragmented across the country, including Canada, have added challenges.
“If you live in Ottawa-Gatineau, you have one province (that) allows one thing, the other province allows another thing, so this creates confusion among the citizens,” he said.
Donald Sheppard, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and member of Canada’s COVID-19 therapeutics task force:
Canada’s federal-provincial sharing of power over health care is highly inefficient and has led to major problems, says Sheppard.
“There’s a lot breakdown in communication, a lot of territorialism. It’s greatly impacted the efficiency of the response,” he says.
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The problems in long-term care homes are examples.
“Quebec is screaming they want money but they’re refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long term care,” he says. “I think it’s heinous.”
He says highly centralized authority and decision-making has had a stifling effect on innovation.
“It puts up roadblocks, and has led to the Canadian health-care system having lost any attempt to be innovative and nimble,” he says.
Sheppard says he doesn’t think there will be mass vaccinations for Canadians this summer and the September timetable that the federal government is talking about for vaccinating everybody is optimistic.
“Remember that we don’t have vaccines that are approved in under-11-year-olds,” he says. “There will still be opportunities for the virus to circulate in children, particularly children are in school settings.”
He suggested that the current immunization campaign’s goal is not herd immunity, eliminating transmission of the virus and rendering is extinct.
“The goal here is to create an iron wall of immunity around the ‘susceptibles’ in our population, such that this becomes a virus of the same public health importance as influenza.”
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Canadians leaving big cities in record numbers: Statistics Canada – CTV News
Canada’s biggest cities are experiencing a record-breaking loss of people as urbanites move to smaller bedroom communities in search of affordable homes.
According to a new Statistics Canada report, Montreal and Toronto both saw a record loss of people from July 2019 to July 2020 as urban-dwellers moved to the suburbs, smaller towns and rural areas.
Toronto lost 50,375 people over those 12 months while nearby Oshawa, Ont. saw its population grow by 2.1 per cent — the fastest population growth in the country. Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo in Ontario and Halifax were tied for the second-fastest growth, at 2 per cent.
Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said this shift is great news for his city.
“It really introduces us to greater opportunities: new families, new friends, new communities and it really adds to the wonderful fabric of the city of Oshawa,” Carter told CTV News.
Over the same period, Montreal lost 24,880 people, while nearby communities such as Farnham, Que. and Saint-Hippolyte, Que. saw their populations rise.
Experts say the pandemic has accelerated the urban-to-suburban trend as more employers shift to a work-from-home model and young, first-time buyers look beyond the city for more affordable properties.
This shift has also inspired plenty of competition in communities where bidding wars are anything but typical.
“With the low supply issues that we are seeing in a lot of the major markets across the country, that is creating some challenges if you want to buy a home just because there is less to choose from,” said Geoff Walker, an Ottawa realtor.
Despite urban areas posting overall population growth due to international migration, the report found that high numbers of people from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver chose to move away.
And despite border closures during the pandemic, international migration from July 2019 to July 2020 accounted for 90 per cent of the growth in Canadian cities. That number drops to just over one-third of growth in other regions.
Real estate markets in Canada’s biggest cities continued to grow during the past year, but Robert Hogue, a senior economist at RBC, expects some of that action to calm in the year to come.
“The very high levels of activity in the late stages of 2020 are probably going to settle down through the course of 2021,” said Hogue.
Canada’s COVID-19 deaths have now surpassed 18,000 – Global News
Canadian health officials reported 6,433 new infections of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, pushing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 708,616. Another 149 people had died after testing positive for the virus in Canada on Sunday, pushing the total past the 18,000-mark.
So far, 615,324 people have recovered from COVID-19 and health authorities have administered 570,742 vaccine doses to protect from the virus. More than 20,484,800 tests for the respiratory illness have been administered to date.
New cases of the virus continue to surge in communities across the country. In a statement Sunday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that the current momentum of the epidemic and continued high rates of infections would continue to create a “rapid accumulation” of cases until the country could significantly interrupt its spread.
According to Tam, the latest national daily averages in new cases showed that the virus was spreading with high infection rates across all age groups, and that infection rates remained highest among those aged 80 years and older who are the most vulnerable to a severe outcome.
“Likewise, outbreaks continue to occur in high-risk populations and communities, including hospitals and long term care homes, correctional facilities, congregate living settings, Indigenous communities, and more remote areas of the country.”
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In Quebec, the province hit hardest by COVID-19, health authorities recorded 1,744 new cases of the virus and 50 deaths.
So far, 242,714 people have tested positive for the virus while 9,055 people have died after falling ill.
The numbers come several days after the province’s 8 p.m. curfew went into effect. The curfew will be in place for the next four weeks as Quebec works to quell its surging case numbers.
On Saturday, a group of protesters gathered to denounce the provincial curfew, arguing it creates a “climate of fear” among residents.
Meanwhile, health authorities in Ontario said 3,422 more people had tested positive for the virus, pushing the provincial tally to 237,786.
They said 69 more people had died, for a total of 5,409.
The news comes as the province extends its window for Canadians receiving their second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine from the recommended 21 days to up to 42 days to compensate for shipping delays.
“Vaccination of residents, staff and essential caregivers of all long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes in Ontario will continue, with the goal of having the first dose administered in all homes no later than mid-February,” the provincial government said in an earlier release.
“In the meantime, we are working to expand the number of vaccination sites to prepare for the demand for vaccination during Phase Two.”
In Manitoba, 189 more infections were reported by health officials, as well as eight more deaths. To date, the province has seen 27,511 confirmed cases of the virus and 769 people have died.
Alberta saw another 750 cases on Sunday, as well as another 19 deaths. Saskatchewan found another 287 cases on Sunday as well as another three deaths.
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Several provinces in Atlantic Canada recorded new cases on Sunday as well.
New Brunswick reported another 36 cases, Nova scotia four more and Newfoundland and Labrador just one additional infection.
Worldwide, cases of the virus continue to increase rapidly with a total of 94,826,490 people having been diagnosed with the virus to date, according to Johns Hopkins University. Another 2,027,419 people have since died from COVID-19, with the U.S., Brazil and India leading in both cases and deaths.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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