Ontario should stop stalling on making payments to doctors public

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials
Nov. 6, 2018.   By

If we want to know why it’s so important to have transparency around how drugs are marketed to doctors, we need look no further than the opioid overdose crisis that killed nearly 4,000 Canadians last year.

A large percentage of those who are addicted to opioids got hooked through prescriptions from their physicians, who may have received misinformation about the drugs from manufacturers.

Indeed, in 2007 Purdue Pharma, the maker of one such drug, OxyContin, pleaded guilty in the United States to misleading American doctors and patients about its highly addictive nature.

That’s why it is so alarming that months after taking office the Ford government has yet to enact regulations that would bring into force the Health Sector Transparency Act passed by the previous Liberal government.

It should quit stalling.

The legislation would compel drug companies and those that manufacture medical devices to publicly report cash payments, free dinners, trips and other benefits they dole out to doctors, dentists and pharmacists.

Health professionals can claim all they want that they are not influenced by those gifts and fees. But the very fact the drug companies dish them out so lavishly suggests otherwise. Indeed, Purdue alone paid Canadian doctors $2 million in 2016 for services rendered. And in 2017, 10 of Canada’s largest drug companies together paid Canadian doctors nearly $50 million.

So why the delay? A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott says the government is taking time to review the legislation and consult with its “partners in health care.”

It would have been fair enough to say that in July, when the government had just taken office. But we’re now in November. Further delays on such urgent legislation are cause for concern that the government may be bowing to pressure from drug companies, which say the legislation imposes a “regulatory burden” on them.

Hogwash. The drug companies know very well how much money they are doling out and to whom. They need only make it public as they are required to do in so many other countries, such as the United States.

It’s past time to shed light on these questionable practices. The government should delay no longer in bringing the law into force.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2018/11/06/pass-transparency-law.html

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