The Trump administration proposed a rule Wednesday to allow states to import prescription drugs from Canada, moving forward a plan announced this summer that the president has said will bring cheaper prescription drugs to Americans.
Importation of drugs from Canada as a way to lower costs for U.S. consumers has been considered for years. Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), called the move “a historic step forward in efforts to bring down drug prices and out-of-pocket costs.”
Industry trade groups in both countries opposed the plan, saying it will not lower costs and could hurt Canadian drug supplies.
Azar said HHS would also offer guidance to drugmakers that wish to voluntarily bring drugs they sell more cheaply in other countries into the United States for sale here.
The pathways for importation were announced in July, when Azar unveiled a “Safe Import Action Plan.”
Azar could not provide an estimate of how soon Americans could start seeing cheaper drugs from Canada. The proposed rule would need to pass through a 75-day comment period before being finalized, he said.
“We’re moving as quickly as we possibly can,” he added.
Governors of states including Florida, Maine, Colorado, Vermont and New Hampshire have already expressed an interest in importing drugs from Canada once the pathway to do so is fully in place, Azar said. States would be required to explain how any proposed drug imports would reduce drug prices for consumers.
The proposal faces opposition from large U.S. pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
Jim Greenwood, current head of biotech industry group BIO and a former Republican congressman, said that importation would not result in lower prices for consumers, citing nonpartisan budget experts and past U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioners.
“Today’s announcement is the latest empty gesture from our elected lawmakers who want us to believe they’re serious about lowering patients’ prescription drug costs,” Greenwood said.
Ottawa also has criticized the plan. Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. said last month that importing medicines from north of the border would not significantly lower U.S. prices. Reuters previously reported that Canada had warned U.S. officials it would oppose any import plan that might threaten the Canadian drug supply or raise costs for Canadians.
The federal government has suggested it could step in and block exports in the event that any such plans threaten Canada’s drug supply. In fact a previous government already introduced a bill in the House of Commons that would have allowed a block on exports.
The Paul Martin government introduced Bill C-83 in 2005 when American politics was previously awash in talk of importing from Canada. But it never became law, as the Martin government was defeated soon thereafter and the issue died down in the U.S.
Canada drug supply ‘insufficient’
“The drug supply is insufficient for the Canadian market, let alone trying to divert it to a much larger market like the U.S.,” said Daniel Chiasson, president of the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management, a trade group that represents drug distributors.
“We’re not supportive of any policy initiative or policy proposal that has the capacity to threaten the stability of medications available to Canadians.”
The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPHA) was still analyzing the announcement Wednesday afternoon to assess whether it might have a practical impact.
“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. These proposals could significantly restrict the availability of medications for our patients,” CPHA chair Christine Hrudka said in a statement to CBC News.
Speaking to reporters in Florida on Wednesday, Azar said Canadians’ cheaper drug prices were the result of a free ride off of American investment and innovation.
“Obviously the Canadians are going to be looking out for Canadians,” he said. “We’re here to put American patients first.”
Many prescription medicines would be excluded from importation from Canada, such as biologic drugs, including insulin, controlled substances and intravenous drugs.
Tip-toeing around big pharma
U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has struggled to deliver on a pledge to lower drug prices before the November 2020 election. Health-care costs are expected to be a major focus of the campaign by Trump and Democratic rivals vying to run against him.
The Trump administration in July scrapped an ambitious policy that would have required health insurers to pass billions of dollars in rebates they receive from drugmakers to Medicare patients.
Also in July, a federal judge struck down a Trump administration rule that would have forced pharmaceutical companies to include the wholesale prices of their drugs in television advertising.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are proposing drug pricing bills that contain some of the proposals Trump has advocated, such as indexing public drug reimbursements to foreign drug costs.
But Trump has said he will veto the Democrat-led House bill if it comes to his desk on the grounds that it would slow down innovation.
“Once again, the Trump White House is tiptoeing around big pharma with a spectacularly pinched and convoluted proposal that excludes insulin and has no actual implementation date,” said Henry Connelly, a spokesman for U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.
“If President Trump actually wants to lower drug prices, he should pick up the phone and tell Senator McConnell to send him the House-passed Lower Drug Costs Now Act.”
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.
COVID-19 worsening Canadian students' diets, inactivity, alcohol consumption: study – CTV News
A new Canadian study has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased unhealthy behaviour in post-secondary students.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, reported that isolation brought on by the novel coronavirus has led to a “significant worsening of already poor dietary habits, low activity levels, sedentary behaviour, and high alcohol consumption among university students.”
Nutrition professor and lead author of the study, Gordon Zello, said in a press release that the findings could be used to help students maintain healthy behaviours going forward.
“Our findings are important because university students, especially those most vulnerable for poor nutrition and sedentary behaviour, should be targeted for interventions aimed at maintaining and improving physical activity and dietary practices during this pandemic and beyond,” Zello said.
Researchers noted the study is the first to assess “changes in students’ dietary intake, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour” amid COVID-19.
The findings were published Friday in the peer-reviewed medical journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
The study looked at 125 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina who were living independently or had roommates, but were responsible for buying and preparing their own meals.
Over the course of the four-month study, the students responded to online questionnaires about their food and drink consumption, physical activity and sedentary behaviour before and during the pandemic.
The study started just as Saskatchewan was imposing COVID-19 restrictions, according to researchers. Zello said this timing ensured that details of students’ eating and activity habits prior to the pandemic and during it were “fresh” in their minds.
“With pre-pandemic research already showing university students to be a vulnerable group for inadequate diet and physical activity, the measures imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to examine further impact on their lives,” Zello said.
The study found that the students consumed less food every day during the pandemic compared to before.
Researchers say the students ate 20 per cent less meat, 44 per cent less dairy, and 45 per cent fewer vegetables as the pandemic continued.
While they drank considerably less caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea, Zello said the students’ alcohol consumption “increased significantly.” He added that these dietary habits could pose serious health implications following the pandemic.
“This dietary inadequacy combined with long hours of sedentary behaviour and decreased physical activity could increase health risks in this unique population during COVID-19 confinement and once the pandemic ends,” Zello explained in the release.
The researchers behind the study noted that “several reasons” may explain the students’ dietary shift.
Zello said that public health measures implemented to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as reduced grocery store hours and restaurant closures, may have limited students’ shopping frequency and the availability of healthy food options.
According to the study, previous research has shown that psychological distress brought on by the coronavirus has been linked to “poor diet quality, particularly increased consumption of alcohol.” With that in mind, the study said that students may be eating less to counteract their lack of exercise and “increased sedentariness.”
Researchers found that only 16 per cent of the students studied were meeting Canadian guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week prior to the pandemic. They say that “further decreased” to 9.6 per cent during COVID-19.
Of those that were meeting Canadian activity guidelines before the pandemic, researchers say 90 per cent became less active.
The number of hours spent in “sedentary behaviour,” sitting or lying down with little energy expenditure, also rose by three hours to approximately 11 hours a day, according to the study.
“There’s no doubt that measures such as the closures of gyms and other recreational facilities by the universities and other private and public establishments within the province resulted in reductions in the level of physical activity,” the study said.
Researchers say another reason for the decrease in physical activity may be that many students were no longer walking to school after universities moved to remote learning formats.
The study noted that 55 per cent of students studied were employed before the pandemic, and only 49 per cent continued to be employed in the following months, adding to the overall decrease in activity.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca
- Pfizer says it will increase vaccine deliveries by mid-February.
- China building isolation hospitals in Hebei province to combat increase in infections.
- Brazilian approval of Sputnik V vaccine delayed by missing data.
- Some health-care workers are still hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca.
Canada has reached a grim new milestone in its fight against COVID-19, with the country’s case count surging well past 700,000, ahead of an expected reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand on Saturday said she understands Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.
She said she has been in touch with the drugmaker and been assured it’s “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible,” Anand said on Twitter. The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.
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Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics, said on Friday that Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by 50 per cent for four weeks.
Pfizer said it hopes the upgrade will allow it to produce two billion doses per year, up from 1.3 billion doses. The company said in an email to CBC News on Saturday that it will increase its vaccine deliveries beginning the week of Feb. 15.
As of Friday night, more than half a million Canadians had received inoculations against the virus that causes COVID-19.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 12 35 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 707,354 cases of COVID-19, with 75,558 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,984.
In British Columbia, the B.C. Hotel Association said implementing an inter-provincial travel ban would decimate what’s left of the sector’s operators and urged Premier John Horgan — who sought legal advice on such an action — to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19.
WATCH | British Columbia mulls how to keep visitors out:
Alberta saw 717 new cases and 15 new deaths on Saturday.
Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths.
In Regina, police fined a woman $2,800 after breaking up a large gathering. Police in the city have now issued at least 10 tickets for people violating public health orders related to COVID-19.
Manitoba recorded 180 new cases and two additional deaths.
The update comes one day after the provincial government asked people for their input on the possibility of lifting some pandemic restrictions next week.
Ontario reported 3,422 new cases on Sunday, after registering 3,056 new cases the previous day. Locally, there are 1,035 new cases in Toronto on Sunday, 585 in Peel Region, 254 in Windsor-Essex County, 246 in York Region and 186 in Niagara Region, Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.
In east-end Montreal, a group of protesters braved a snowstorm on Saturday to denounce the province’s COVID-19 curfew, which has been in place for a week.
The protest took place in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough and was organized by a group called “No police solution to the health crisis.” Montreal police were present at the protest and asked that everyone present wear masks and respect physical-distancing guidelines.
New Brunswick recorded 27 new cases on Saturday.
Nova Scotia added four new cases on Sunday, after reporting the same number the previous day. Last week, mandatory testing for rotational workers in the province came into effect. Workers are now required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later.
Northwest Territories health officials are urging anyone who has been in self-isolation in Hay River or Kátł’odeeche First Nation since Jan. 1 to arrange for a COVID-19 test after wastewater testing suggested there are one or more cases in the area.
Meanwhile, officials confirmed the first positive case in Fort Liard, a hamlet nearly 545 kilometres southwest of Yellowknife.
In Nunavut, a worker at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine, located about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, has tested positive, the company said. There have now been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday via email.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 94.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.1 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.
WATCH | WHO chief pleads for breaking of COVID-19 transmission:
Brazil‘s health regulator on Saturday said it’s seeking further data on Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before considering its approval for emergency use.
Regulator Anvisa wants assurances on Phase 3 clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine by drugmaker Uniao Quimica.
Moscow has approved Sputnik V for Russian domestic use, though clinical trials there have not yet been completed.
The Brazilian regulator was expected to make a decision on Sunday about authorizing emergency use of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac and Britain’s AstraZeneca.
In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned on Sunday that despite the U.K. government’s confidence about its coronavirus vaccination plan, the public needed to stay home as the country’s health service was “on the cusp” of being overwhelmed.
Raab told broadcaster Sky News that the U.K. was a “global leader” in its vaccination rollout, and he was confident that the government’s roadmap would meet targets.
In China, officials reported 109 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, two-thirds of them in a northern province that abuts Beijing, and no deaths.
There were 72 new cases in Hebei province, where the government is building isolation hospitals with a total of 9,500 rooms to combat an upsurge in infections, according to the National Health Commission.
China had largely contained the virus that was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has reported hundreds of new infections since December. The Health Commission on Saturday blamed them on travellers and imported goods it said brought the virus from abroad.
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