New Democrats call for government to restore funding for life-saving drug research, conduct real review of Champix’s effects

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VICTORIA— New Democrats are calling on the Liberal government to stop putting drug companies’ interests before the safety of British Columbians by restoring funding for UBC’s Therapeutics Initiative and ordering a real review of smoking cessation drug Champix.

“This remarkable program has saved lives, and saved the health care system money. In the case of Champix, a drug added to the Pharmacare plan by the Premier, there are serious concerns about adverse side-effects such as patient suicides, which need to be investigated.” said Adrian Dix, leader of the B.C. New Democrats.

“Documents now show that despite these concerns, the Liberal government ordered the Therapeutics Initiative not to review Champix last June. They then subsequently gutted TI’s funding to conduct research on other drugs that provide cause for concern, including Dabigitran, a potent blood thinner, and Accutane.”

“The government’s decision not to fund the Therapeutics Initiatives and to kill drug studies further proves its willingness to interfere with independent drug safety evaluations on behalf of drug companies. The Premier admitted as much in April when she defended cutting TI’s funding, saying it was part of addressing the interests of the private sector,” said Judy Darcy, New Democrat health critic.

Dix added that the Liberals’ latest claim it rejected TI’s study to determine the effect Champix was having on British Columbians because there were not enough people in the province taking it by last Spring simply does not hold water.

“According to the government’s own documents, by April 2012 over 20,000 British Columbians were being prescribed smoking cessation drugs. The government blocked TI’s study in June 2012.”

“Given that number has climbed to over 45,000 patients now, the government should do the right thing and order TI to proceed with its real world safety and effectiveness study of Champix so that the concerns about adverse effects can be properly investigated and appropriate action taken if necessary to protect patients,” said Darcy.

Over 90 per cent of family physicians and pharmacists in B.C. use TI’s impartial and accurate drug research, which has uncovered risks associated with drugs like Vioxx and Avandia years before manufacturers owned up to them. The initiative also saves B.C.’s Pharmacare program approximately $140 million each year. The Therapeutics Initiative has an international reputation for its original research.