Prescription drugs safety legislation coming today

Canadians looking for clearer information on prescription drugs will be one step closer today after Health Minister Rona Ambrose tables a new bill on patient safety.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose will introduce a patient safety bill Friday that is expected to give Health Canada more power to deal with adverse drug reactions. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Canadians looking for clearer information on prescription drugs will be one step closer Friday after Health Minister RonaAmbrose tables a new bill on patient safety.

Ambrose is set to introduce patient safety legislation following a promise in October's throne speech.

The health minister has a news conference planned for 12:30 p.m. ET in Ottawa.

In the Oct. 16 speech, the government committed to:

  • Ensure drug labels are written in plain language.
  • Ensure potential side effects are accurately indicated.
  • Give itself new powers to require that adverse drug reactions be reported.
  • Identify potentially dangerous drugs and make sure they're recalled quickly.

A Conservative backbench MP will be closely watching the proposed law.

Ontario MP Terence Young's daughter Vanessa died in 2000, after complications from her prescription for prepulsid, a stomach pill.

Young wants it to be mandatory for doctors to notify Health Canada about patients who experience side effects from the drugs they are prescribed.

"That would be a fantastic early warning system, for patients and doctors, that this drug — maybe it's a new drug on the market — could actually be causing heart attacks or strokes or whatever," Young told CBC News.

Ambrose recently told a committee the bill will deal with adverse drug reactions.

"I understand the concerns that Canadian families have experienced over adverse drug reactions," she told MPs.

Greater role for regulators

Health Canada estimates that fewer than 10 per cent of adverse drug reactions are reported right now. Young says that makes it difficult for doctors to make informed decisions for their patients.

Young would also like to see Health Canada to be able to pull a drug from the market if it believes it is dangerous. Currently, drugs are pulled voluntarily by drug manufacturers.

"I'm hoping that new legislation will give regulators at Health Canada the power to order drugs off the market, to say to drug companies 'just take the drug off the market,'" Young said.

NDP health critic Libby Davies is also watching today's legislation carefully.

"What we're looking for is a comprehensive approach that shows that they understand what this issue is about. But if this is just about cherry-picking a few things here and there, then I think it's going to fail the test about what federal leadership is about in health care," Davies said.

The bill will be tabled later Friday and is expected to become law sometime in 2014.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.