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Results: 1 - 20 of 20
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to all of the speakers for being here today.
Something that I hear about quite often, whether it's ventilators or testing kits, is delays with Health Canada for approving products that might be similar in the United States or in the United Kingdom. Things seem to take longer here.
First of all, I'd like to ask Mr. McDonald. Is this something that your team has faced, and do you have any concerns with red tape as you've been going through your processes?
Arthur McDonald
View Arthur McDonald Profile
Arthur McDonald
2020-06-01 12:19
No. Actually, it's just the opposite. Health Canada has been very helpful as we've gone forward. There are some small differences between what the approval that we already have from the FDA is and what Health Canada will be looking for, but in particular, Health Canada will be providing authorization for our Canadian manufacturers. You authorize a final product in this case, so it's important for us to manufacture and test specifically what is being manufactured here in Canada and submit it to them for the final approval.
We've had guidance on the characteristics they're looking for, and they have offered us a three- to five-day turnaround once we have submitted the device for authorization. I've found Health Canada to be very good.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair. I will be splitting my time equally with MP Lambropoulos.
Thank you to the witnesses for all the great information. Thank you as well for all the great work you've done. You've made us proud and you've made Canada proud. You're also putting the health of many citizens of the world at the forefront.
Dr. McDonald, you talked about the fact that you started the Canadian research on March 21, and you recently submitted the Canadian design to Health Canada for approval. You also heard feedback, in around three to five days, in approval. Can you tell us when you actually submitted? When do you expect to have the approval from a timing point of view?
Arthur McDonald
View Arthur McDonald Profile
Arthur McDonald
2020-06-01 12:24
No, I'm sorry, I must have misspoken earlier. We are planning to submit to Health Canada in a couple of weeks' time.
Arthur McDonald
View Arthur McDonald Profile
Arthur McDonald
2020-06-01 12:24
At that point, they have committed to giving us a three- to five-day turnaround.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
You're anticipating to submit, but during this time you have the requirements and you're very clear what Health Canada is looking for, and it will be three to five days. We're hoping that in three weeks we will have a Canadian-made ventilator approved by Health Canada. Am I correct on that?
Arthur McDonald
View Arthur McDonald Profile
Arthur McDonald
2020-06-01 12:25
That's correct. We're hoping to start production at the end of this month.
View Emmanuella Lambropoulos Profile
Lib. (QC)
Good afternoon, witnesses. Thank you for being with us today.
Professor McDonald, I'd like to ask you a question with regard to the Health Canada approval. As my colleagues have already touched on, you are seeking the approval. We know that in the United States there are a lot more approvals happening at a much quicker rate, but they're not necessarily being as careful about what they are approving. I think it's a good thing that Canada is taking this approach of being careful and making sure that only the right equipment is being used and that the right tests are being approved.
From reading your testimony and hearing you this morning, I was under the impression that it's been a while that you've been seeking the approval, but you just said that you haven't even applied yet. Is that correct?
Arthur McDonald
View Arthur McDonald Profile
Arthur McDonald
2020-06-01 12:27
That is correct, and it is because what Health Canada will approve is what is manufactured in Canada. In the last three or four weeks, companies in Canada in combination with our partners in Europe have been industrializing the design and have been securing the supply chain. It was necessary in some instances to wait until there was a signed contract in order for them to make commitments on such supply chains.
This week we have a complete device in Italy. We have the start of production of devices of a similar nature here in Canada. It will take us a few weeks to test them. Then that will be submitted to Health Canada, but in the meantime our discussions with Health Canada are to define what we should be testing and the complete set of tests that they will require, which in some cases means going slightly beyond what the FDA has asked for. They have been very helpful that way.
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much. Indeed, it's an honour for me to be able to speak here today and to ask questions.
There was a comment earlier about the lack of Canadian taxpayer research dollars going to science and so on, but I remember a few years ago when I was in Germany with the science minister and we had an opportunity to talk to folks like those from the Liebniz and Helmholtz and Max Planck research institutes. Really, they were saying that per capita and per GDP, the Canadian taxpayer actually puts in just as much as any place else does. The fact is that we have difficulty getting our private sector linked in. Of course there are many reasons for that. One, of course, is that we have 37 million people. We have six time zones. We have 14 different government entities, and we aren't the main draw when it comes to businesses.
I think it's important that we recognize this. Canada has always done some amazing work, which is one of the reasons why amazing scientists, such as Mr. McDonald, are be able to do the great things that they do.
When we are talking about Health Canada, Mr. McDonald, you just mentioned that you were anticipating three to five days because that was what you were being assured by Health Canada. Unfortunately, a lot of other companies have been given similar assurances that once they have their applications in, things are going to happen for them. I hope that because of your appearance here at this committee, people will take note and we will see that happen.
I'm just wondering if there are certain things you have seen. Maybe you haven't experienced yet how approvals happen out of the United States or the European Union, while we are still waiting in Canada for Health Canada. Is the Canadian process working the way it should be in these particular times, and can we improve the approvals? Are there any impediments that you've heard about from those companies and researchers who have been trying to get their work onto the world stage ?
Arthur McDonald
View Arthur McDonald Profile
Arthur McDonald
2020-06-01 12:31
I really don't think I'm qualified to comment effectively on Health Canada's actions with respect to others.
Admittedly, as one of the four ventilator projects—StarFish being another one that was approved by the Canadian government—and having been given priority, we have exceptional access to Health Canada, so we have had, and I referred to this in terms of turnaround time, the preferred situation. It's very difficult for me to comment on the general situation, other than the fact that it's obvious there is an awful lot being looked at carefully by Health Canada right now. I certainly have some sympathy with them in terms of the workload that is on their plate.
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much. Of course, there are so many companies that have made applications. No doubt they have to be well scrutinized.
What you just mentioned was that, unless they are going to be manufactured here in Canada, they are not particularly going to become a priority. You mentioned the work that had been done in Italy and how those approvals by the EU seem to be moving along and that you still have to go through the due diligence here in Canada.
Is this also part of the reason we continue to hear about different things happening in the U.S., and people are saying, “Why don't we take a look at this now?” and wanting these new procedures or new technologies to be used in Canada?
If it is the case that we have this international conflict or at least slowdown, is there anything we as a committee could be doing here to try to help out in this situation?
Arthur McDonald
View Arthur McDonald Profile
Arthur McDonald
2020-06-01 12:33
I'm very pleased that we have been able to mobilize several Canadian companies to get into this needed technology. The companies themselves have been extremely co-operative and have brought expertise to the table. I'm sure it's also happening with the StarFish device, as that is company that already has experience in this area.
I think this is a case where, as you mentioned the discrepancy in terms of total expenditure in Canada is primarily associated with R and D done here in Canada. This is an example where company co-operation with national labs and universities has been a very positive experience. I think it's good for the country.
Stephen Lucas
View Stephen Lucas Profile
Stephen Lucas
2020-05-22 11:07
Indeed, on May 9, Health Canada cancelled the authorization for the importation and sale of a KN95 respirator and, in addition, contacted a number of other MDEL-holders to change the labelling, which does represent a recall in the definition we use to indicate that they don't meet the N95 filtration standards. Relabelled, they could be used as face masks. That process has happened, and we issued, on May 11, a public advisory to that end, in addition to contacting those medical device establishment licence-holders.
View Francis Drouin Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thank the minister for coming before this committee, as well as the staff who are here with us today. I also want to take this opportunity to thank all the front-line health care workers and to thank the minister's department and its staff, who have been working 24-7 on this particular issue. We are living in unprecedented times.
We're on the subject of personal protective equipment and discussing other medical supplies. Minister, I'm wondering if you could explain to us what the role of your department is. How are you working with the provinces to ensure that we get personal protective equipment to our front-line health care workers?
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
The department is working full steam on procurement in partnership with Procurement Canada and on supporting, as you heard earlier, licensing for new products developed here or new products that are available in markets elsewhere.
The important piece of work that happened early on was developing a framework for how we would allocate personal protective equipment across the country in a timely way and ensuring that we had a distribution mechanism to get PPE to provinces and territories quickly and fairly, one that allowed us, of course, to hold back the 20% so that we could have emergency supplies if there was a surge in any particular jurisdiction. That formula has worked very well.
I have regular meetings with my provincial counterparts each week, and one of the issues we talk about is PPE. As for the requests that have come forward, we have been able to refill almost all of them. There are some new ones, as always happens, but generally speaking, people are satisfied with how the sharing agreement is unfolding.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
In fact, they were told an hour after the announcement was made on Friday, Madam Chair.
Has the Minister of Health spoken with the Alberta health minister about serological testing not yet approved by Health Canada?
Stephen Lucas
View Stephen Lucas Profile
Stephen Lucas
2020-03-31 14:23
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee today about Health Canada's role in the government's response to COVID-19.
I'll just start by echoing the comments that President Namiesniowski concluded with in terms of the critical importance of us all working together, and all Canadians, to support the effort now. Certainly Health Canada and all of our staff across the country are fully dedicated to this effort.
The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we have seen in recent history. I can assure you that Health Canada is taking all the measures we can to protect the health and safety of Canadians. Health Canada plays a vital role in the government's response as the regulator of health products. Core to our regulatory mandate is the review of health products for safety, quality and efficacy. During this critical period, it is very important to get drugs and medical supplies quickly to the front lines. We are focused on expediting the review and approval of drugs and devices to address COVID-19, while continuing to ensure that these products are safe and effective for Canadians. We're using all the tools in our tool kit.
Last week, the government welcomed the passage of amendments to the Food and Drugs Act and the Patent Act, to streamline processes and provide the government with additional powers to help prevent and mitigate shortages of drugs and medical devices, to seek additional information from companies to confirm that products are safe for Canadians, as well as to make, use or sell a patented invention, such as a medication or a ventilator, that is needed to respond to the pandemic. These amendments help position us to adapt quickly. Our goal is to ensure that Canada is prepared for whatever challenges come our way in the coming days and weeks.
Another critical regulatory tool we have is the use of interim orders. An interim order is one of the fastest mechanisms available to the Government of Canada to help make health products available to address large-scale public health emergencies such as the one we are experiencing now. Earlier this month, the Minister of Health approved an interim order to allow quicker, more flexible approval of the importation and sale of medical devices necessary for Canada's response to COVID-19. This order made two new diagnostic tests immediately available to Canadian laboratories, and we continue to approve additional tests.
Despite all these efforts, we anticipate there will be shortages of health products, given global demand. Health Canada is working proactively to identify and mitigate the impact of drug and medical device shortages on Canadians and health care professionals during our ongoing work to combat COVID-19. We have stepped up our surveillance efforts and, as I have mentioned, have adopted new, more agile, rapid processes to help ensure that Canadians have access to the drugs and medical devices they need.
We've increased the frequency of our engagement with industry, provinces and territories, health care and patient groups, and international partners. We're doing this work to have signal identification and coordination of key mitigation efforts as early as possible.
As the president of the Public Health Agency mentioned, we're using all of the tools at our disposal to expedite the supply of safe and effective personal protective equipment. Protecting our front-line workers, those who care for the sick and keep our communities running, is one of our top priorities. Health care workers need a reliable supply of appropriate PPE to do their job safely. To that end, we're expediting approval of licence applications related to PPE products, sanitizers and disinfectants, and facilitating expedited access through the interim measures I noted. This work is critical to ensure that Canada is able to benefit from the latest advancements and to support both our domestic production that President Namiesniowski noted, as well as supplies coming in from wherever we can get them abroad.
As we know, no jurisdiction is immune to the threat and impact of COVID-19 and no individual government can respond alone. Co-operation and collaboration are critical to our response and have been part of our work from the start with provinces and territories, as well as with health care professionals, patient groups and industry. The Minister of Health and I, as well as Dr. Tam and President Namiesniowski, speak with our counterparts at the provincial and territorial levels very frequently, and certainly our deputies and officials do every day. This is critical for us to ensure coordinated efforts and regular communication.
In this context, we're working to understand the assets and potential pressure points on the health care system and to mobilize resources to support provinces and territories wherever possible.
We're using data and modelling to help understand the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic and where we can expect the pressure points.
As you may be aware, all the case data we have now is made available publicly through daily epidemiological reports on the Covid.ca site and through a Statistics Canada portal where the detailed data was made available to researchers yesterday.
Another key area for collaboration with provinces and territories is in the area of digital health.
Right now we are asking Canadians to stay at home as much as possible and to practice physical distancing. For many, this means they may have to access medical professionals and social supports in alternative ways.
Provinces have been mounting tools, and we're working with them to augment them. We recently launched an online health assessment tool for Canadians who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. It complements those already available in some provinces and territories and helps users determine whether they need medical attention or testing.
We're also developing, and plan to launch, an online mental health support that provides comprehensive psychosocial support to Canadians as they manage through this exceptionally stressful time, working with a variety of resources.
Finally, I would like to speak briefly about Health Canada's role in protecting the health of federal employees in the workplace.
Through our public service occupational health program and in collaboration with the chief human resources officer for the Government of Canada, we have advised federal departments on how to manage the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. We have provided advice for a wide variety of work settings and have developed targeted advice for specific workplaces, including for the agents of the Canada Border Services Agency on the front line. This is critical to ensure they are protected as they perform their functions in helping Canadians and all of us combat the disease.
In conclusion, at Health Canada we're committed to doing everything we can to protect the health and well-being of Canadians, from people in communities to health care workers to federal public servants. The magnitude of this responsibility has never been clearer and the imperative for action now has never been stronger. We are working around the clock to help protect the health and safety of Canadians.
Thank you.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Hello to all my colleagues from all side of the House. It's great to be here.
I will try to keep my remarks within the 10-minute allotment so that we have ample time for conversation, and I want to thank everybody for your thoughtfulness.
First of all, I am excited to talk about my mandate and to be here with my incredibly hard-working officials: Dr. Stephen Lucas, who just joined us as the deputy minister of health; and Tina Namiesniowski, who is the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Also, arriving just as I am announcing her is Dr. Tam, who most of you should know and if not—
Voices: Hear, hear!
Hon. Patty Hajdu: Yes, go ahead and give these officials a round of applause because they have been working full out for Canadians for several months—well, obviously longer than that, but most intensively on the coronavirus for several months.
Catherine MacLeod, who the chair has already introduced, is the executive vice-president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Dr. Siddika Mithani is the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Of course, as you all know, I will turn to them for more technical answers as necessary, but I think first it would be appropriate if we start our conversation with the coronavirus or the COVID-19 outbreak.
As you know, and as I have been saying for two and a half months, this is a situation that is very fluid. It has been evolving across the globe, and we see it is evolving very rapidly here in Canada as well. The number of cases in Canada and around the world continues to increase, and globally now there are more than 100 countries affected. I am sure you all saw that the World Health Organization has declared that this is a pandemic. However, that is not shocking to us because we have been acting as if it had this potential in the early days, and certainly over the last several weeks and months we've been working to prepare Canada for a worst-case scenario.
We obviously see rapid change globally and indeed as we see this week, in terms of new cases and the kinds of stories you're all reading in the newspaper, Canada is clearly not immune in the case of a global pandemic. In full disclosure, I spent nine years in public health, and pandemic and epidemic are always part of the conversation no matter what you do in a public health agency, but I think it's at times like these that we see how important it is to have a strong, coordinated approach to health care and public health in a country.
Public servants at all levels of government have been working extremely long hours to protect Canadians. I want to recognize them for their dedication and professionalism in the face of this international health threat.
I'll say it again in English because I think it's super important to repeat. This is the face of the leadership team that has been managing the coronavirus crisis, but behind them are hundreds, if not thousands, of health professionals who are working incredibly long hours with them. I am enormously grateful for the amount of work that people have been putting in on this issue to protect Canadians.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is working closely with provinces and territories to ensure there's a consistent, evidence-based approach to addressing this crisis. At the federal level, we're conducting national disease surveillance and providing guidance on public health measures.
I have weekly meetings with my provincial and territorial health counterparts. I have worked closely with health ministers of the most severely affected provinces on an as-needed basis. We have each other's phone numbers and we talk to each other as situations arise.
Our National Microbiology Laboratory is helping to confirm new cases of COVID-19 and conducting research to advance our understanding of the virus.
Last week I announced that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is investing nearly $27 million over two years in coronavirus research. This investment will support research and diagnostic tools and candidate vaccines, as well as strategies to tackle misinformation, stigma and fear and to understand how this experience that we're all going through as a world, and particularly in Canada, will change our population's thoughts and behaviours.
That announcement has obviously now been surpassed by the announcement today of the additional $1 billion towards COVID-19 that will include a substantial commitment to additional research. It won't take us long to dispense that money to the incredible researchers we have across the country. One thing that I've been extremely proud of in being part of the Liberal government is investing in science, research and the capacity of researchers to rapidly begin trials and studies. In fact, the announcement today will ensure that the other great applications that we received will be able to move forward. I look forward to hearing more about that as those announcements come forward.
Ensuring access to vaccines and antivirals is a top priority. While there are currently no drugs specifically authorized to treat COVID-19, there are a variety of authorized treatment options that include general antiviral drugs that are being used to treat patients infected with COVID-19. Health Canada encourages companies and researchers with drugs that could be effective in the treatment to contact the department. Clinical trials can be authorized and established very quickly, particularly in urgent situations like this.
Health Canada is also leading federal workplace health initiatives to ensure regulatory preparedness and to provide occupational health and safety guidance to federal employees.
As Minister of Health, I'm focused on how this virus is affecting the health of Canadians and our health care system. However, there's more to it than that. The coronavirus 2019, or COVID-19, has already had a negative effect on the global economy. We must prepare for the possibility of a wide range of effects.
Last week the Prime Minister announced a new cabinet committee to oversee the federal response to COVID-19. This committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, will ensure government-wide planning and proactive response to protect the health and safety of Canadians, to respond to impacts on workers and businesses, and to ensure that the government can continue to deliver its services to Canadians across a range of scenarios.
You can see by today's announcement that this committee is working incredibly hard and very quickly to ensure that we have those responses ready and available.
COVID-19 is a serious public health challenge, but we are working diligently to be ready. The government is working on all fronts to protect the health, safety and well-being of Canadians. We will continue to work with the provinces and territories, indigenous communities and leaders, businesses and community-level groups to minimize the health, economic and social impacts of this rapidly evolving public health issue. Of course, I will keep this committee informed of any new developments as they arise, as I have been doing with Canadians since the appearance of the virus.
Our response to COVID-19 illustrates the government's commitment to protecting the health and well-being of Canadians, one that I share deeply. While my mandate as Minister of Health is far-reaching and touches many important issues, obviously the coronavirus is taking an enormous amount of energy and time. I will reassure you that the other work is proceeding under the wise leadership of Deputy Lucas, and I appreciate the hard work of Health Canada to make sure that the items that are in my mandate continue to have a path forward.
As minister, I am leading the government's work to strengthen public health care for all Canadians. We're working towards a national universal pharmacare program so that Canadians can access the prescription drugs that they need without worrying about the cost. We've already strengthened our regulatory approach to pharmaceutical pricing, and this will help lower the prices Canadians pay for patented medicines and will make pharmacare more affordable. Budget 2019 provided support for Canadians who need access to high-cost drugs for rare diseases, as well as funding to create a Canadian drug agency, which will lower drug costs even further.
While access to medication is an essential element of health, Canadians must also have access to a doctor or a primary care physician when they need one. This is especially important when faced with an emerging crisis, as we are facing now. Our goal is to ensure that each and every Canadian has timely access to a family doctor or a primary health care team.
Because there can be no true physical health without mental health, we're working to set national standards for access to mental health services. It is incredibly important that Canadians have access to mental health services when they need them.
Canadians should also have better access to home care and palliative care. I'm pleased to say that we've made progress through the framework on palliative care in Canada and our supporting action plan, which aim to make home care and palliative care more accessible all across the country.
For some, having access to medical assistance in dying, MAID, is an important aspect of end-of-life care. As you know, a few weeks ago the Minister of Justice and I introduced amendments to the existing MAID legislation, and the proposed amendments are designed to make MAID more accessible to those who qualify for it, while ensuring that vulnerable individuals continue to be protected.
As Minister of Health, I'm also focused on addressing problematic substance use. As you know, Canada remains in the grip of a deadly opioid overdose crisis, one that has claimed the lives of nearly 14,000 Canadians since 2016. This crisis requires a comprehensive, compassionate and evidence-based response.
We must protect Canadians from lethally potent and illegally produced synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl. These psychoactive substances are now found in communities across the country and are the main cause of overdoses.
We must also tackle the root causes of substance use and addiction, such as mental illness, trauma and pain. This includes the experience of stigma, which unfairly marginalizes people and prevents them from getting help. Through our public education and awareness efforts, we are working to end the discrimination experienced by people who use substances to make it easier for them to get the care they need and deserve.
Stephen Lucas
View Stephen Lucas Profile
Stephen Lucas
2020-03-11 16:21
This is an area Health Canada is actively monitoring through our regulatory function to ensure the safety of the blood supply through work with Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec. If we need to turn to other donors to increase that, those efforts will be taken, but it is an area of active monitoring to ensure that Canadians have access to the blood they need for—
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